Print my Plane (An Overview of Additive Manufacturing in the Aerospace Industry)


By: Joanna Carbajal

Now that you know you can 3D print your pizza, let’s talk about 3D printing the next plane you board. The aircraft industry has successfully developed commercial production using additive manufacturing.


Gartner estimates that 75% of commercial aircraft will use 3D printed parts by 2021. By that same year, Gartner also estimates that 20% of businesses will have an internal startup to develop solutions using additive manufacturing - following Airbus’ example.


Let’s take a look at some examples:

Image Source - GE Aviation’s Advanced Turboprop engine took 855 manufactured parts into 12 3D printed parts.

Image Source - Boeing uses over 50,000 3D printed parts at 20 sites in four countries.

Image Source - On November 2017, Airbus partnered with China Aviation Materials and Bright Laser Technologies - a metal additive manufacturing company. Airbus plans to print 30 tons of metal parts per month by 2018.

Image Source - Thor, Airbus’ 3D printed unmanned aircraft vehicle, took its first flight in November 2015 flying for 40km.

ABI Research predicts that the US aerospace and defense industry will produce a 3D printing value of $17.8 billion in 2026 - accounting for a large portion of additive manufacturing growth. Additive manufacturing has allowed the aerospace industry to reduce the weight of planes due to the reduction of parts, which means lower fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. Apart from weighing less, printed plastic parts also perform better and provide superior electrical insulation according to Javelin. With additive manufacturing, aircraft parts can be made in unique shapes and geometries that are not possible with traditional manufacturing. Additive manufacturing is also more cost effective and more environmentally friendly as there is less waste created than with traditional manufacturing.


References


Aerospace Opportunities Demand Quick Resolution 3D Printing Issues

Airbus Unveils Thor

Gartner Predicts 2018

How Airbus uses virtual reality and 3D printing to help make and sell planes

The Future of 3D printing in Aerospace

3D printing and the Aerospace Industry

3D printing news roundup: Airbus