Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, has recently made big waves in various industries.
It has opened doors for pioneers in healthcare, transportation, and household appliances. Some companies, like GE and Boeing, are among the first to explore this resource in aviation.
The two aircraft manufacturers recently started using 3D printing to produce aircraft parts. Now, the world is taking notice.
Three Ways 3D Printing Will Shift Manufacturing for Aircraft Parts
1. Lower Costs
It is not unusual for commercial jet producers to end up in debt after bringing out new aircraft.
The costs for parts and production are simply too high.
This year, Boeing partnered with Norsk Titanium to roll out new aircraft parts made entirely by 3D printing, in an effort to cut costs.
Titanium is not a cheap metal. It is lighter than aluminum but much more expensive.
Using new technology can have major effects on the final price tag of making an aircraft. 3D printing allows for the melting of titanium to create one result, rather than making many smaller pieces to then build the desired part.
This process has the potential to save Boeing up to $3 million per jet. Each new aircraft usually costs around $265 million.
The new pieces are also approved by the Federal Aviation Authority.
2. Engines and Innovation
Imagine being able to make an entire engine with the click of a button. GE did.
The company reduced the number of engine parts from eighteen to one. 3D printing is changing everything. There is less room for error and fewer steps in production.
Rather than having to put each piece through various forms of testing, the entire unit can undergo inspection. Instead of focusing on matching the right parts individually, engineers can take a look at the engine as a whole to make improvements.
Such improvements can open doors manufacturers had yet to see possible. Engineers can produce parts that weigh less and cost less, but work better.
The same engine that took GE one button to make came out 25% lighter. It also has five times more the durability rate than typical methods can produce.
3. Design Made Easy
To get the right result for any aircraft part can take many tries.
Prototypes are an essential step of the design and production process for new parts.
These are possibilities engineers test to see if they are on the right track. Although just options, they still take a significant amount of time and money to produce.
With 3D printing, engineers can better develop and expand the possibilities available.
They can go straight from the idea in their head, to the digital design, to pressing print. They could potentially have the prototype within a day.
The prototype can then be tested for further development, or point employees back to the drawing board. No matter the result, the process is faster and more efficient.
The Sky’s the Limit
3D printing is only beginning to emerge in aircraft making.
Many manufacturers and commercial jet lines are taking notice of the potential this resource has almost instantly.
The excitement is building, and we are eager to see what comes next.
Tell us your thoughts on 3D printing for aircraft parts below.