The Aerospace and Defense (A&D) industry is a great example of utilization Additive Manufacturing (AM) (commonly referred to as 3D printing) with a clear value proposition and the ability to create parts that are stronger and lighter than parts made using traditional manufacturing.
The A&D industry was a very early adopter of 3D printing and still continues to contribute heavily to its development. Some aerospace companies began using this technology as early as 1989 and over the next couple of decades, adoption of 3D printing increased substantially. In 2015, the Aerospace & Defense industries contributed approximately 16% of 3D Printing’s $4.9+ billion global revenues.
This article presents an overview of the use of 3D printing in the aerospace industry. It will discuss design requirements for parts used in airplanes and give design recommendations for common (and not-so-common) aerospace applications. A range of popular 3D printing materials are suitable for the aerospace industry and are presented along with case studies, where 3D printing has been successfully implemented.
Leading aerospace manufacturers are migrating to AM to push the envelope of what’s possible in the world of flight. Aircraft design is evolving rapidly with a new sophistication taking over the scene. As global competition increases, it’s more important than ever to stay ahead of the curve. Additive manufacturing has proved to be a key element of maintaining a competitive edge in aircraft manufacturing.
One of the primary benefits of 3D printed parts is a reduction in weight – passing along continued operational savings during the life of the aircraft. . Components can be built in lightweight materials, with thinner walls than injection molding. Additive manufacturing easily produces complex geometries, allowing for part consolidation and design iterations that significantly reduce weight.
Free from the constraints of conventional manufacturing and tooling, engineers can design and further optimize the performance of aircraft components. Custom interiors accommodate specific airline needs and functions on similar aircrafts. For any specialized, missions specific aircraft, interiors may have critical custom needs, a perfect function for 3D printing to solve.