Print my Plane (An Overview of Additive Manufacturing in the Aerospace Industry)
Updated: Jun 18
By: Joanna Carbajal
Now that you know you can 3D print your pizza, let’s talk about 3D printing the next plane you board. The aircraft industry has successfully developed commercial production using additive manufacturing.
Gartner estimates that 75% of commercial aircraft will use 3D printed parts by 2021. By that same year, Gartner also predicts that 20% of businesses will have an internal startup to develop solutions using additive manufacturing - following Airbus’ example.
Let’s take a look at some examples:
Image Source - GE Aviation’s Advanced Turboprop engine lowered the amount of parts. They went from 855 manufactured parts to twelve 3D printed parts.
Image Source - Boeing uses over 50,000 3D printed parts at 20 sites in four countries.
Image Source - On November 2017, Airbus partnered with China Aviation Materials and Bright Laser Technologies, which is a metal additive manufacturing company. Airbus plans to print 30 tons of metal parts per month by 2018.
Image Source - Thor, Airbus’ 3D printed unmanned aircraft vehicle, took its first flight in November 2015 flying for 40km.
ABI Research predicts that the US aerospace and defense industry will produce a 3D printing value of $17.8 billion in 2026, which accounts for a large portion of additive manufacturing growth. Additive manufacturing has allowed the aerospace industry to reduce the weight of planes due to the reduction of parts, which means lower fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. Apart from weighing less, printed plastic parts also perform better and provide superior electrical insulation according to Javelin. With additive manufacturing, aircraft parts can be made in unique shapes and geometries that are not possible with traditional manufacturing. Additive manufacturing is also more cost-effective and more environmentally friendly as there is less waste created than with traditional manufacturing.