Collins Expands Additive Manufacturing Capabilities

Credit: Collins Aerospace

MONROE, North Carolina—Collins Aerospace opened an additive manufacturing facility across the street from its MRO facility in North Carolina that will focus on manufacturing aluminum and titanium parts. 

The $15 million investment comes on top of $30 million investments in the MRO site since 2018.

Collins already has “a very large network of additive (manufacturing) machines that do nothing but tooling” across its facilities, says Sam Mehta, Collins Aerospace president of advanced structures. The new facility in Monroe, North Carolina, near Charlotte, is instead focused on “production readiness design,” or parts that can fly on aircraft.

While Collins did not disclose specific part numbers that it intends to manufacturer here, good candidates would be those with complex geometries that traditionally would be made from multiple pieces bolted together. Additively making that part would reduce material waste and make the part stronger.

In addition, “Additive manufacturing allows us to produce parts much faster at lower costs, and with greater precision,” for both commercial and defense applications, says Kevin Myers, Collins Aerospace VP of operations and quality.

Collins makes a lot of large structures, including landing gear, which makes up a substantial percentage of an airframe’s weight. Mehta points out that that there are braces, clips and retainers that are already additively manufactured for landing gear. “What we’re working on now is a combination of additive manufacturing plus a change in material characteristics, maybe composite based, that allows us to take advantage of the weight savings so that we can make even some of the load-bearing parts,” he says, such as struts.

To reduce weigh yet be resilient, “we need additive,” says Mehta. “It’s the only way we’re going to get there.”

Myers says Collins decided five years ago to create the additive manufacturing facility in Monroe—which joins others in Iowa, Minnesota and Singapore, along with additive research centers in Connecticut and Poland—based on its business needs and because of the talent pool in the area.

To help keep up with its growing business in Monroe, Collins Aerospace donated $35,000 to South Piedmont Community College’s advanced manufacturing program. Mary DeStaffan, Collins’ site general manager, says the company and community college hope to start an apprenticeship program in the near future.

The additive manufacturing facility becomes the latest addition to Collins’ campus in Monroe, which repairs 6,500 commercial and military parts in a 160,000-ft.² facility.

Lee Ann Shay

As executive editor of MRO and business aviation, Lee Ann Shay directs Aviation Week's coverage of maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO), including Inside MRO, and business aviation, including BCA.