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 and Defense industry is said to be one of the earliest adopters of 3D Printing technology. Dating as far back as the 1980s, 3D printing is a technology which continues to revolutionize the aerospace industry. In recent years, the technology has been used to reach new levels:
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 – ArianeGroup, a joint venture between Airbus and Safran, successfully tested their 3D printed combustion chamber for European Space Agency (ESA) rocket engine, Ariane6, set to launch late in 2022. ArianeGroup believes the success of the tests paves the way for rocket engines made entirely by additive manufacturing.
You can read more at SpaceWatch.
How is 3D printing used by the industry?
There are multiple ways that 3D printing is used by the aerospace industry – some of the most common uses include the production of:
- Interior aircraft components – including the cockpit dashboards and door handles.
- Fixtures, gauges, and templates – which, in turn, brings down the cost of the 3D printing process as a whole.
- Placeholder parts – which are often used as substitute parts for training purposes.
- Metal brackets – that are used as part of the structural function inside the aircraft itself.
- Prototypes – which enable designers to refine both the form and fit of the finished parts.
Benefits of using 3D Printing in the aerospace industry:
- 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 aircraft parts.
- Reducing aircraft 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 much more heavyweight and less durable – however, 3D manufactured parts allow for a more lightweight and durable product, which lends itself to a lighter aircraft.
- 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, there’s no doubt that 3D manufacturing has revolutionized aircraft production.
- Customization – additionally, additive manufacturing increases the ability to create bespoke parts and customization, for both functional and interior parts of the aircrafts.
With 3D printing revolutionizing the way aircrafts have been built and designed for more than four decades, it is difficult to imagine the aerospace and defense industry ever diverging from the AM industry.