Airbus Expands 3D Printing Use

European aerospace giant Airbus continues to integrate AM into its production cycle.

3D pririnting, aerospace, wing, AM, metal, DMLS, airbusAdditive Manufacturing continues to make inroads into the aerospace industry as Airbus describes how it’s integrating the technology into its products.

As part of their pivot toward 3D printing, Airbus has started to use printed metal parts in their A300 model family and also their newly released A350XWB. One of the biggest reasons the company has become interested in the technology is its ability to produce lighter, stronger components at a potential cost savings.

“We are on the cusp of a step-change in weight reduction and efficiency – producing aircraft parts which weight 30 to 55 percent less, while reducing raw material used by 90 percent,” says Peter Sander of Airbus. “This game-changing technology also decreases total energy used in production by up to 90 percent compared to traditional methods.”

Beyond being a cost savings measure, Airbus also sees AM as an avenue for manufacturing innovation.

In partnership with both the ESA and MIT, Airbus has been looking to develop new methods from printing higher quality end-use parts that can be used to maintain aging craft. In fact, Sanders believes that 3D printing could be used to create on-demand parts for airplane maintenance with as little as a 24-hour turnaround time.

While today’s vision for AM is focused on replacing predesigned parts, what if large-scale 3D printers could be used to update or retrofit aircraft depending on weather conditions, flight times or even new aerodynamic innovations. If high fidelity, large-scale parts could be rapidly produced at any airport hangar, additive manufacturing could truly be a game changer for the aerospace industry.

Image Courtesy of Airbus