Rapid Prototypes for the Aerospace, Defence & Security Industries

Overview of the Sector

Historically products for the Aerospace, Defence and Security sector have typically been designed as rugged metal fabrications, whether it be a vehicle, a mine detector or a radio set.

This was due to a number of factors including available manufacturing technologies, low volume production requirements, the need for customisation and the ability to withstand the rigours of the battlefield. Designs were primarily functional with less focus given to ergonomics or aesthetics.

Now, companies invest more resource into product development, in order to gain the competitive edge in the defence and security market place by offering added value through their product. This includes considering factors such as usability, functionality, efficiency, cost, availability, longevity etc. but more consideration is now given to the user interaction, ergonomics and weight reduction.

All of these factors can be improved and optimised through the integration of Rapid Prototyping into the design cycle.

How does Rapid Prototyping benefit the Aerospace, Defence and Security sector?

Due to the nature of the market, devices are often only required in low volumes where quantities won’t allow the amortisation of tooling investment across the production run. At Paragon we believe that Rapid Prototyping has the potential to transform aerospace defence and security product development in many ways:

1. Proof of concept

The facility to make frequent changes and adjustments to a digital design and then very quickly generate a physical evaluation model through 3D Printing processes has dramatically reduced design development times but also allows designers of aerospace, defence and security products to explore far more variations.

2. Improved ergonomics

With the opportunity to quickly produce multiple iterations of a design at the concept stages without the need for expensive re-tooling, new aerospace, defence and security products can be optimised for ergonomics and functionality with end user assessments possible at an early stage.

3. Reduced Time to market

By accelerating the product development phase through the use of prototyping technologies, aerospace, defence and security manufacturers can confidently lay down production tooling earlier, allowing them to maximise their market advantage and benefit from a quicker return on investment. In many cases, Rapid Prototyping processes are adopted as a low volume manufacturing solution in their own right, in order to further reduce time to market and gain direct user feedback before making more significant investments.

4. Optimised for manufacture

A rapid prototype for the aerospace, defence and security sector can also be evaluated from an assembly point of view as to how parts will mate together or the practicality of assembling electronics and other internal hardware. Improvements to the design can reduce significantly part count, material and assembly time resulting in a lower tooling investment and reduced manufacturing time and cost.

5. Validation and user trials

The flexibility of Additive Manufacturing (AM) through laser sintering (SLS) for example, means that new products can be field tested as many times as required, helping to reduce risks and uncertainties and improve product functionality at lower costs.

6. Low volume manufacture

Due to the nature of the aerospace, defence and security markets, products are usually only required in low volumes, where quantities won’t allow the amortisation of tooling investment across the production run. Rapid Prototyping processes like 3D printing and Vacuum Casting offer a means to produce parts which look and feel like injection mouldings, but without the tooling costs.

Which Prototyping processes are most suitable for my application?

Additive Manufacturing (AM) allows designers to customise products to customer requirements in much lower volumes than possible with traditional manufacturing. Companies that seek to develop customized versions of existing products, or develop new products altogether, can do this without expensive changes to production tooling or machinery.

The ability to create free-form designs means that 3D printing helps in building components that are difficult or impossible to produce with traditional manufacturing techniques, so designers and engineers can devise completely new shapes and structures without regard for existing manufacturing limitations. This freedom from the constraints of machining, casting or tooling means that parts can be optimised for strength versus weight with almost unlimited complexity.

Weight reduction is a key goal in product design within the defence and security sector, particularly for aircraft components or military personnel devices. The industry has been a market leader in the development of light weight, high strength composite materials but more recently with the adoption of Additive Manufacturing, advancements in software allow the analysis of loads and stresses within conventional components and then from that analysis the structure can be redesigned with material removed from the non-load bearing areas.

Another benefit of AM is the ability to produce multiple parts as a single component, thereby reducing assembly time and cost and also reducing tolerance stacking issues and process and quality control requirements, particularly when multiple parts are required to be welded together. The overall manufacturing costs are greatly reduced by only producing a single component, removing any tooling investment or labour for assembly and post processes. Thus, the management of logistics is greatly improved.

Alongside 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing, technologies, we offer a range of in house processes to produce a rapid prototype to meet your exact requirements.

For advice on choosing the most appropriate solution, get in touch today here.

Aerospace, Defence & Security Testimonials

Over the years we have established ourselves within the sensitive market of Aerospace, Defence and Security and have become a trusted supplier to many of the sector’s high profile organisations such as BAE, QinetiQ, DSTL and Ultra Electronics.

As a regular exhibitor at the industry’s flagship event, DSEi, our innovative approach has always been welcomed by companies within this sector as they explore new technologies, processes and materials for their rapid prototypes and low volume product development.

We have significant experience in the production of defence and security devices, from early concept development through to low volume production, so have a thorough understanding of this complex sector. Many components which we have manufactured are either being trialled or are in full use within the field, as we have been able to offer manufacturing solutions which will withstand the rigours of the harsh environments required.

At Paragon we were involved in providing fully functional prototypes of General Service Respirators for field trials by the manufacturer, before issuing them to the military. We have also worked on projects as diverse as chemical filter systems, communications equipment and portable lighting, to missile components, training weapons and parts for UAVs.

Our focus is on using our in house rapid prototyping processes to provide production solutions to our ever-growing aerospace, defence and security customer base and continual R&D investment is helping us to identify tough, application specific materials.

Furthermore, gaining ISOO 9001 accreditation positions us as a preferred rapid prototyping supplier with superior levels of quality for this challenging market.

Rapid Prototyping services we offer

Aerospace, Defence and Security Applications

  • Full Face respirators
  • CRBN Filter concepts for armoured vehicles
  • Camera Mounts
  • Communications Equipment
  • Seals and Grommets
  • Rugged enclosures
  • Unmanned Aircraft Vehicles (UAV’s)
  • Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUV’s)
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