For the production of escape route markings for the aircraft of major manufacturers, nozzles printed on the SLA 3D printer Form 3L are used as manufacturing aids - process-safe, modifiable and efficient.

With 3D printers from Formlabs, the leading company for 3D printing, Lufthansa Technik now also produces manufacturing aids as consumables for further production. This innovative approach offers advantages over conventional processes such as injection molding in the form of greater flexibility, faster throughput times and, last but not least, significant cost savings.

Lufthansa Technik AG, a subsidiary of the Lufthansa Group, has been using 3D printing processes for component production in the area of aviation and aircraft construction since 2018. Nozzles are needed for the production of the photoluminescent light strips of the "Guide U" escape route markings, which have to be replaced after about one day. Formlabs' large-format Form 3L 3D printer can print up to 72 nozzles at once with a turnaround time of 19.5 hours. "Theoretically, we could also produce our parts by injection moulding," explains Ulrich Zarth, project engineer at Lufthansa Technik. "But that would mean we would be nowhere near as flexible in terms of mould and ongoing process optimisation."

High-quality in-house printing saves time and costs
In cooperation with myprintoo, a German consulting partner of Formlabs that assists in the optimal use of 3D printers, a suitable process and material for the process were first selected. In order to best meet the geometric and qualitative requirements, Lufthansa Technik uses SLA 3D printing (stereolithography) from Formlabs, which in this case proved to be of higher quality than FDM 3D printing (fusion layering). On the material side, the choice fell on the synthetic resin Clear Resin, which is particularly suitable for fluidics and casting applications.

The subsequent iteration process quickly found the optimal design for the nozzle, with the process remaining continuously accessible for optimisation. "We continuously accompany the production of the tool in order to be able to make any adjustments to the layer thickness, print alignment or even the component geometry - the quality and process reliability of the print are thus guaranteed at all times," says Jonathan Wulf from myprintoo.

In-house printing of the required components not only saves time and costs due to the efficient and flexible process itself, but also by eliminating the need to outsource to an external provider. After printing, the 3D-printed nozzles can be used directly and without post-processing in the further production process of the light strips. "Thanks to the large production volume of our Form 3L, the customer saves about ten hours of printing time per run compared to a standard-sized SLA 3D printer," concludes Stefan Holländer, Managing Director EMEA at Formlabs.


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