Development of AM Components for Laser Systems in the Defence Industry.
An overview of the use of additive manufacturing (AM) in advanced electro-optic sensors systems at Leonardo is presented. Two devices are described: a novel solid state laser and a laser energy monitor chassis both manufactured by AM in Ti-6Al-4V alloy.
These examples demonstrate the use of AM in precision mounting and alignment, the integration of AM metal parts with precision optics, reduced component count and certification of AM components for production.
Leonardo has been developing AM production techniques for a wide range of defence equipment with emphasis on streamlining production, reducing labour intensive alignment and tooling, and rapid redevelopment to meet changing and diverse customer specifications. Nevertheless, as a reliable process, AM presents challenges in developing a certifiable design-to-print engineering methodology.
The Novel Laser design is based on a current Leonardo laser designator product and shows how part consolidation can effectively be used to design an ‘optical bench’ style laser resonator. 14 machined components and 60 fasteners are combined into a single part which houses the main optical components of the laser. Reduced optic-optic tolerances allows for a design with a simplified alignment procedure removing further complexity from the optical design. A reduction in the number of machined surfaces and a revised costing structure compared with traditional manufacturing allows for high performance materials to be taken advantage of, offering improved performance with no mass penalty. A lower overall part count lessens the burden on material handling and supplier management, cutting through-life costs whilst remaining competitive on a manufacturing cost basis with traditionally manufactured parts. All of this will enable Leonardo to offer a more technically competitive product.
The laser energy monitor is a bespoke component designed to mount a photodiode detector into an existing laser product to satisfy a new and immediate customer requirement. The design benefits from the freedom afforded by AM to comply with the volume and shape restrictions imposed by an established system design whilst maintaining a competitive cost. The energy monitor also makes use of the typically rough surface finish of metal AM parts to form a diffuse optical cavity, a feature which would typically be achieved through the use of additional optical components.
Our results demonstrate the tremendous potential that metal AM has in providing design freedom, use of high performance materials, reduced production costs through lower overall part count, reduced material handling, and streamlined supply chain management.
Since obtaining his Masters from Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh in 2013 Marek has worked within the Applied Research Group at Leonardo, looking at the application of Additive Manufacturing to Laser, Electro Optic and Radar based products. To date his work has focussed on Metal based Additive Manufacturing, contributing to internal design and quality assurance documentation. Most recently Marek has developed an Additive Manufacturing based Novel Laser design, which combines multiple parts from a traditional laser design into a single optical bed based part.
He also co-founded the Leonardo Innovation Hub, a Makerspace style workshop which was formed to aid in the education and adoption of new and advancing technology.
Currently Marek is developing the second generation Novel Laser design whilst also working within the Leonardo team for the UK Dragonfire Capability Demonstrator.