26 May, 2024

Metal 3D printing by Aidro Hydraulics

16 June, 2017

Today, additive manufacturing (AM), or 3D printing, is commonly used in special fields such as dental, medical and luxury goods. It is also increasingly being deployed in industries as aerospace, automotive and oil & gas.

In the hydraulic sector, metal 3D printing has been introduced by Aidro Hydraulics, a family-run company founded in the northern Italian province of Varese by engineer Paolo Tirelli in 1982. Taking advantage of its technical knowhow in hydraulics, Aidro has begun to produce metal 3D printed hydraulic components as an alternative to the traditional production methods, in order to meet specific needs of customers.

The traditional manufacturing of hydraulic components starts with metal bar or with mould casting. The piece is then milled with a CNC machine to reach the desired shape. In the case of AM, manufacturing starts with loose material that is then built into a three-dimensional shape. Aidro has introduced AM based on metal powder bed fusion technology, which uses fine metallic powders as the feed material. The metal powder particles are melted using a high-power laser in sequential ultra-thin layers, creating functional hydraulic 3D products.

Alternative methodology

This technology offers many benefits such as a high degree of customisation, complex geometries, lighter forms and short lead time. Aidro is now exploiting these advantages in order to offer customers an alternative to traditional hydraulics manufacturing techniques.

Starting from the design or re-design of hydraulic components to be 3D printed, Aidro can produce a 3D-printed prototype. After testing it, the final hydraulic parts can be produced with AM for small series or with traditional methods for larger volumes. Aidro states its tests demonstrate that the 3D printed products are comparable to the traditional manufactured products in terms of pressure resistance, mechanical properties, porosity and density.

In the case of prototyping, Aidro comments that 3D printing allows projects to develop faster than ever, due to the short production time (a matter of days). Moreover, the cost of a 3D-printed prototype is considerably lower than prototyping casting moulds or traditional machining, which requires large volumes. Moreover, adds Aidro, with AM it is possible to print hydraulic prototypes of different shapes within a single production batch.

Realising the potential

With these advantages, Aidro believes many projects that have been closed in a drawer due to traditional prototyping limits will now have a better chance of being realised.

Besides his traditional product range, Aidro is now producing hydraulic components with AM. One example is a 3D-printed hydraulic valve block for single-action cylinder control. This 3D-printed hydraulic manifold demonstrates how a traditional solution can be virtually re-invented using a different design approach: simply install the necessary valves and connect them as desired. The internal channels of the valve block are optimised to enhance flow and save space, while the risk of leakages is claimed to be eliminated, as auxiliary drillings are no longer needed.

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