CASE STUDIES // ARTICLES

4 WAYS 3D PRINTING IS CHANGING AVIATION 15th February 2017

Another week, another chance to see just how impactful 3D printing / additive manufacturing is becoming in a new industry.

Myself and some colleagues from Generation 3D attended the Aircraft Interiors Show this week, in Dubai, and were taken aback by the interest in 3D Printing and the vast potential in the airline industry as a whole. On the other hand there was a lack of presence from 3D printing companies at the show and as far as implementation in Dubai / the UAE and the wider Middle East it was a little limited. This would not deter us however and the vast benefits for the industry make it a key target for Generation 3D in 2017, below I will try and highlight some of the key benefits we are looking to provide to the Aircraft/Aerospace industry:

1. Prototyping/modelling of planes / exterior

Planes by nature are very hard models to prototype with conventional prototyping methods. Complex geometry’s and need for extremely high levels of accuracy means creating these models using conventional methods is nearly impossible. 3D Printing allows you to create these models much more quickly and accurately and cost effectively (see the photos above and below for 3D printed prototypes created by Generation 3D here in Dubai, UAE).

2. Prototyping interior overall space and elements

Interiors of aircrafts again are very intricate spaces with a huge amount of components, and thus make prototyping the entire spaces again very difficult and laborious to prototype using traditional methods. Entire plane interior models using 3D printing however can be created overnight and give us an overview of what the entire space will look like and how certain features interact with each other.

To add to this 3D Printing also gives us the opportunity to develop individual components rapidly and at a low cost. Air New Zealand recently used 3D Printing / additive manufacturing to design all of its business class interior components such as tray tables and TV screens as well as using them as functional parts.

3. Low production runs

Although aircrafts do use a lot of components, in terms of traditional manufacturing the production runs of parts are relatively low. Air New Zealand sighted this as a key reason for using 3D Printing stating “we often only require a small number of units, which can be really expensive using traditional manufacturing”

4. Design flexibility / light weight design

Design flexibility moving forward will be 3D Printings major advantage in the aviation industry. When saving weight means saving fuel means saving money, design flexibility is a huge benefit. 3D Printing a part allows designers to build parts that are up to 70% lighter with the same material properties or better, meaning engineers are now rethinking design to be compatible with 3D Printing which could in turn have huge benefits economically and environmentally for airlines.