France Hélices, from tradition to 3D printing

Propeller France Propellers

France Hélices has just been awarded the Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant (Living Heritage Company) label and is keeping its sights on the future with the acquisition of a 3D printer and the development of its CFD tools. New means to continue to improve its propellers.

Recognition of know-how

France Hélices, founded by Paul Bezzi in 1977, celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. The experience acquired by the family business and that of the Concarneau and Dammarie les Lys sites, active since 1900, provide France Hélices with numerous crafts and industrial know-how. This industrial heritage of excellence has just been recognized by the Ministry of Economy and Finance, through the award of the label Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant (EPV). Obtaining the label is part of France Hélices' desire to retain its unusual skills.

Prototyping and moulds in 3D printing

France Hélices will equip itself in 2017 with a 3D printer with a capacity of 1 m3, for propellers up to 1.5 m in diameter. This new technology in full development will allow the company gains on two aspects:

  • Rapid prototyping, thanks to the printing in a limited time of complex shaped parts for testing.
  • The manufacture of foundry models, currently made of wood, manually or by 5-axis machining. The new process will offer more flexibility in possible shapes in a shorter time.

CFD calculation integration

The design office of France Hélices is equipped with a fluid mechanics calculation module. Integrated into its Solidworks CAD software, and validated thanks to the company's numerous real test archives, it enables it to carry out in-house the CFD studies required for new models. These were previously outsourced.

Thanks to the new tool, the 3 members of France Hélices design office will be able to pre-select the new profiles to be tested in cavitation tunnel. These new blades, designed for their hydrodynamic performance, will be doubly energy efficient because they will also have required the production of fewer physical prototypes.

An activity commensurate with investments

After the various crises on the world market, France Hélices is still doing well. The company has just shipped over 40 complete propeller assemblies, shaft lines and stern tubes to North Africa. A full container of its largest model of surface propellers, the SDS6, has gone to China to equip shuttles that can reach 54 knots. No doubt the new equipment will be running at full capacity.