Additive Manufacturing of Lattice Structures for Electro-optic Assemblies in Aerospace Systems

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: Faculty of Engineering


Metal alloy lattice structures manufactured by Selective Laser Melting can combine lightweight, high mechanical strength with good heat dissipation and provide numerous opportunities for embedded sensing in integrated component systems. These advantages are only realised if the thermo-mechanical requirements are identified and considered in the early stages of the design. A complete design-to-print methodology comprises three main areas:
- Identifying the optimum lattice design commensurate with mechanical rigidity and a thermal performance, for example: stiffness vs mass reduction, vibration damping, thermal conduction and heat dissipation.
- Development of the design process and its documentation for a controlled design standard.
- Modelling, performance prediction, assessment and inspection for quality control. This is fundamental to the development of an engineering process and its adoption by manufacturing industry.
The PhD will develop the engineering process for Selective Laser Melting applied to specific examples in airborne sensors and integrated systems for aircraft


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/P510592/1 30/09/2016 23/12/2021
1787086 Studentship EP/P510592/1 30/09/2016 06/01/2021 Richard Selo
Description 1) The thermal conductivity of complex structures, called lattice structures, has been measured experimentally. This research has shown that thermal conductivity of lattice structure is primarily a function of the amount of material (volume fraction) and base material properties. From the experimental results, equations were derived that allow samples with a specified thermal conductivity to be designed and use to demonstrate how a component can be manufactured with a custom thermal profile by varying the volume fraction of the lattice.
2) Forced convection heat transfer of lattice structures have been measured experimentally. It was shown that lattice structures have superior thermal performance than a traditional pin-fin geometry. Furthermore, lattice structure fully controllable features makes them suitable for a variety of application, from high-pressure loss, high heat transfer gas turbine cooling to low-pressure drop electronic heat-sinks.
3) A novel high-strength aluminium alloy has been trialled and successfully printed using an additive manufacturing technique called Laser Powder Bed Fusion (LPBF). The properties (thermal conductivity, mechanical properties) of this printed aluminium alloy have been characterised as long as the microstructure. A heat treatment has been developed to maximise the mechanical properties of this aluminium alloy. The results showed an increase in mechanical performance of approximately 15%.
Exploitation Route The results from the thermal conductivity measurements allows designers to create components with tailored conduction paths, opening the possibilities to a new generation of heat sinks and heat transfer devices.
The forced convection heat transfer of lattice structures offers design guidelines for the development of next generation lightweight heat transfer devices.
The successful development and characterisation (including thermal conductivity and mechanical properties) of high strength aluminium alloy allow to widen the possible applications of laser powder bed fusion process. This is of importance because materials for additive manufacturing are limited, and aluminium alloys are restricted (due to manufacturing process conditions) to cast alloys that exhibits medium mechanical properties, impeding the use of additive manufacturing where high-strength to weight ratio are necessary.
The combination of these three outcomes allow the development of advanced multi-functional components, using high-strength aluminium alloy with lattice structures for thermo-mechanical applications.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Electronics,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology