This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, Clean Sky 2, under grant agreement No 785408


FLOW Control Actuators at Aircraft scale manufacturing by SLM with high aerodynamic performance for using in Harsh environment

Challenges to address the needs of the aeronautic industry

Ultra-high by-pass ratio propulsion systems are amongst the best candidates for the next generation of short/medium and long range commercial aircraft applications to reduce CO2 emissions in terms of fuel burn and engine noise. However, the bigger size and new design of the engines generate flying problems associated to turbulences, so lightweight flow control actuators with complex geometries are required.

New technologies to integrate large ultra-efficient turbofan engines to the wing

An innovative design and manufacturing of flow control actuators by additive manufacturing with aerodynamic performance and resistance to harsh environments will be developed. They will be manufactured in Titanium alloy and will withstand high temperatures (up to 260 °C) and pressures (5bar) during flight test with aerodynamic performance and high resistance to harsh environments.

Main Innovation

The development of a new bionic and lightweight design to improve the integration of flow control actuators in the region of the wing/pylon junction to allow the best aerodynamic performance of the aircraft.

The project

Selective Laser Melting (SLM) technology selected for manufacturing process

SLM is particularly useful in the aerospace industry because (1) moderate production volumes, (2) constant design interactions, (3) geometric design complexity, (4) new and high added value materials integration, (5) tight material property requirements and (6) reliability and consistency of manufactured samples. As compared to other powder bed fusion technologies, SLM allows obtaining of lower as-built surface roughness and higher shape accuracy, which are of high relevance for the aerodynamic properties of the flow control actuators.

Main research lines

-Adaptation of the design of the actuators to be effective in flight and printable by SLM
-Development and optimization of the manufacturing process to get parts free of defects and distortions
-Verify that manufacturing of the actuators is reliable and reproducible
-Aerodynamic testing, tests in harsh environment including rain, icing, sand and dust, vibrations and anti-icing fluid, and analysis of results

Parts to be manufactured

Ti6Al4V alloy-based Pulsed Jet Actuators and Steady Blowing Actuators are considered, satisfying aerodynamic requirements for which shape accuracy and surface roughness will be strictly controlled. Topology optimization for optimal lightweight design, finite elements simulation to predict distortions and ensure dimensional stability, and thermal and surface treatments to ensure a high surface quality will be implemented to boost a high aerodynamic performance.

The project

Industrial objectives

To obtain increased structural integration, reduced total costs and structural weight in the aircraft industry due to freedom of design, topology optimization, short production time, etc.

To reduce time-to market from several months to one month due to the manufacturing of the actuators in one shot compared to conventional methods where the assembly of various parts is performed.

To reduce up to 40-60% the weight of flow control actuators by topology optimization, bionic design and lattice structures.

To reduce the overall cost in 50% due to reduction of time-to market and lightweight design.

Environmental objectives

To contribute to next generation of High Performance and Energy Efficient Airframe structures with less environmental impact.

To reduce CO2 emissions and fuel consumption due to the weight reduction of airframe system parts contributing to achieve the sustainability targets of aircraft industry.

To reduce waste and scraps due to dimensional inaccuracies that are avoided because of the shift from trial and error approach to anticipation of distortions during the design stage.

The project

Additive manufacturing promotes Environmental Sustainability

  • Additive manufacturing is considered as an environmental friendly technology in which the scrap can be reduced to the minimum and more than 95% of the remaining material (powder that has not been melted) may be recycled.
  • Minimal production of dangerous wastes (lubricants, waste oil, polluted scrap, contaminated rags and absorbents, etc.).
  • Reduction of CO2 emissions related to the energy consumption required for part manufacturing by at least 10% compared to conventional manufacturing processes.

Innovation to achieve Flightpath 2050 goals

Environmental protection is a prime driver in the development of aircrafts. European industry has introduced in the market a range of new products including the most efficient, environmentally friendly and quiet engines in the world to move towards the goals of the Flightpath 2050:

  • 75% reduction in CO2 emissions,
  • 90% reduction in NOx emissions, and
  • 65% reduction in noise emissions as compared to the capabilities of typical new aircraft in 2000

Main Results
Mid-Term Results

Main Results

  • SBA actuator design development fully completed optimizing dimensional deviations.
  • PJA actuator design development fully completed with reinforced supports.
  • Distortion prediction simulation performed in SBA and PJA actuators.
  • 3 SBA actuators with control samples manufactured with the developed design.
  • 3 complete PJA actuators manufactured in the optimum orientation.




  • Innovative designs of Active Flow Control actuators have been developed to be processed by additive manufacturing due to their complexity. Large Active Flow Control actuators, SBA and PJA actuators, have been successfully manufactured by SLM, employing Ti6Al4V alloy, without presenting cracks.
  • Dimensional deviations have been reduced in SBA actuator optimizing the design by introducing stiffener structures. In the case of PJA actuator the optimization of the manufacturing was achieved by optimizing the supporting structure and the orientation in the building platform.
  • A good correlation between the distortion prediction simulation and experimental results have been obtained for complex and large parts.
  • It has been proved that the process is stable, repeatable and robust.


The current project work plan is structured as a coordinated action through consecutive and interrelated tasks, grouped into work packages (WP) that will be running for 24 months (from 1st April 2018 to 31st March 2020).

The first block (WP1 to WP4) is dedicated to the design adaptation of the actuators so that they can be printed by SLM, their manufacturing and the analysis of the aerodynamic and harsh environment behaviour. These four Work Packages comprise the 1st iteration of the project.

The second block (WP5 to WP7) addresses the second iteration with the aim of improving the design actuators based on the previous test results.



The FLOWCAASH project is developed by two Spanish partners, IK4-LORTEK and CTA (Centro de Tecnologías Aeronáuticas), and it is steered by AIRBUS as topic manager.

IK4-LORTEK is the project coordinator and a highly recognized expert in metal additive manufacturing. Its main role in the project is the design of the parts and the manufacturing process optimization by SLM. It works in the topological optimization, development of bionic designs and lattice structures that enable the development of lightweight functional parts.

CTA is a test facility for aerospace applications, so it will be in charge of the verification process of the manufactured parts by specific tests for the aeronautic sector, namely aerodynamic tests and tests in harsh environment.

AIRBUS, one of the main leaders in Europe in aerospace sector, is the topic Manager and steers the FLOWCAASH project included in the Large Passenger Aircraft (LPA) Programme of the Clean Sky2 Joint Undertaking.

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Ane Miren Mancisidor


Project coordinator