Looking for 3D printing specialists in the aerospace industry? Alexander Daniels Global can help. Throughout this article, we’ll discuss how 3D printing is used and benefits aerospace as an industry while detailing how you can easily recruit for your additive manufacturing team.

A History of 3d printing in aerospace

The aerospace industry is one of the earliest adopters of 3D Printing technology, along with aviation and defense. Dating as far back as the 1980s, additive manufacturing is a technology which continues to revolutionize the aerospace industry. 

Timeline of 3D printing in aviation

2011 – designers and engineers created the first entirely 3D printed plane at the University of Southampton – the entire structure of the Southampton University Laser Sintered Aircraft (SULSA) was printed from the wings to the integral control surface. The weight of SULSA was 3kgs, with a span of 1.2m and a cruise speed of 50 knots (58mph) and flew almost silently.

2016 –  ‘Thor’ (Test of Hi-tech Objectives in Reality) was unveiled in Berlin by Airbus. It was the world’s second 3D printed aircraft whose entire body was made by 3D printing except the electrical engine parts of the model. Notably, THOR is a windowless drone that weighs 46 pounds (21 kilograms) and is less than four meters (13 feet) in length.

2020 – Aerospace manufacturer Honeywell Aerospace gained Federal Aviation Administration for its first 3D printed flight critical engine component.

2023Airbus Helicopters to use 3D printing technology from TRUMPF to produce components for helicopters and aircrafts for their parent company airbus.

Timeline of 3D printing in space

2013 – in September 2013 Elon Musk tweeted the SpaceX SuperDraco Inconel rocket chamber emerging from the 3D printer.

2014 – in addition to the cooling chamber, SpaceX also used 3D printing technology in helmets,
visors, valves and microphones.

2014NASA sends the first 3D printer into space for use on the international space station.

2019Blue Origin, the private aerospace company founded by Jeff Bezos developed a factory in Huntsville, Alabama specifically for the additive manufacturing of parts for the BE-4 and BE-3U engines to be tested at NASA.

2023 – the world’s first 3D rocket Terran 1 developed by Relativity Space launched in March 2023.


How is 3D printing used by the industry?


3D printing is revolutionizing how parts for the aerospace industry are made for both aerospace and aviation applications.

How is 3D printing used in the Aviation Industry?


  • Engine components: Additive manufacturing is used to create complex engine components such as fuel nozzles, turbine blades and engine housing. It’s also been used by companies such as GE Aviation for jet engine parts.
  • Cabin parts: Additive manufacturing has been utilised for the printing of cabin interiors such as seat frames, overhead lockers and air vents.
  • Grips, jigs, fittings and tooling: Additive manufacturing is used to make replacement parts such as fixtures and fittings, which can speed along the replacement of spare parts. Particularly in aircrafts where parts are obsolete.
Metal 3D printed brackets for Airbus

How is 3D printing used in space?


  • Rocket components: Companies like SpaceX include use 3D printing techniques to create multiple rocket components including fuel tanks and engine components. Additive manufacturing can utilize printing materials that are light and can withstand the high temperatures exposed to at launch.
  • Satellite parts: Additive manufacturing processes are well suited to produce small and intricate parts used in satellites.
  • On demand printing: NASA and Made in Space, now known as Redwire Space, collaborated to develop the first 3D printer in space, based in the International Space Station it has produced over 200 tools and assets while in space.

Benefits of using 3D Printing in the aerospace industry:

Additive manufacturing has been a transformative innovation in the aerospace industry, in the development of aircrafts, spacecrafts for both commercial and defensive uses including;

  • Costs – typically, as aircraft parts were historically produced in short runs, costs for this have been originally highly priced. That’s where 3D manufacturing helps to alleviate extra costs and streamline efficiencies of projects.
  • Proficient with both large-scale and small-scale production – 3D printing allows manufacturers to produce short runs of both large scale and more intricate parts.
  • Reducing weight – one of the biggest benefits is helping to reduce air drag, fuel consumption and, in turn, damage against the environment. Traditionally manufactured parts are typically heavier and less durable. However, 3D manufactured parts allow for a more lightweight and durable product, which lends itself to a lighter aircraft or spacecraft.
  • Tool-less manufacturing – modified parts and upgrades can be produced on demand, avoiding the need to stock numerous components as you would experience with traditional manufacturing and batch production.
  • Design to production – 3D printing plays a significant role in the whole process – from conceptualization to production. From influencing conceptual modelling to large-scale models highlighting innovative new parts.
  • Customization – additionally, additive manufacturing increases the ability to create bespoke parts and customization for both functional and interior parts.

With 3D printing revolutionizing the way aircrafts and spacecrafts have been built and designed for more than four decades, it is difficult to imagine the aerospace and defense industry ever diverging from the additive manufacturing industry.

Working with 3d printing in the Aerospace industry

As an organization serving the aerospace industry, you might be looking to hire 3D printing specialists to support you with branching out into alternative manufacturing solutions or looking to expand your team to meet high demand from aerospace customers. That’s where we can help.

Here at Alexander Daniels Global, we conduct direct sourcing through targeted headhunting to access inactive candidates, alongside our database and extensive network of active candidates. Put simply, your 3D recruitment needs can be seamlessly handled by our expert team – putting the right candidates in front of you when you need them most.

Want to learn more about 3d printing in the aerospace industry?

If you are an aerospace professional looking to make a move into additive manufacturing, we always welcome you to get in touch. Or, alternatively, browse our career portal to apply for our varied open job vacancies.

For more information about how Alexander Daniels Global can help, contact our team of specialized recruiters today. We also have a wealth of HR resources to help you stay on top of hiring trends – download our 2023 AM salary survey report today.

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