Jessica Schulz | 04/22/2021
How additive manufacturing impact the aerospace industry
Additive manufacturing has been on the rise for several years now. It is no longer used just for prototyping but also for series production.
In the aerospace sector, 3D-printed components are pretty interesting. They can be produced fast, cost-effectively and are much lighter than conventional components. This reduces dependence on suppliers, there are lower emissions and reduces fuel consumption in aircraft for example.
Info: Definition of the term “additive manufacturing
The term additive manufacturing, also known colloquially as 3D printing, describes a process in which three-dimensional workpieces are produced by applying layers of material. In contrast to subtractive processes such as milling, turning or drilling, in which material is removed, material is applied in additive manufacturing. The starting material is in powder form and usually metal, plastic or ceramic. This is heated in a controlled manner, applied in layers and then cured.
Advantages of 3D printing in aerospace
There are a few key factors why additive manufacturing is that interesting, especially for the aviation industry. It doesn’t mean just the aircraft industry, but also for example, UAVs (Unmanned Aircraft Vehicles) such as autonomous flying cabs or drones.
On the one hand, the low weight is an enormous advantage. Up to 60% of the weight of each component can be saved, which in turn significantly reduces the CO2 consumption of aircraft, for example.
On the other hand, a decisive advantage is that the production of complex components is possible with simultaneous flexible production planning. Industrial 3D printing offers a wide range of components that can be manufactured quickly and easily. Due to the tool-free production process, adjustments and changes can be implemented without long lead times. In addition, many functions can be integrated into one component, which in turn reduces the effort required for assembly and quality assurance.
The benefits of additive manufacturing for aviation are clear. Some major aircraft manufacturers have already been using 3D-printed components for years, some are already in series production. But components for air cabs or even 3D-printed drones haven’t been uncommon for a long time. Especially for drones, payloads or other additionally required individual components are no longer uncommon, especially for innovative technology companies. Initially, the components are manufactured as prototypes in a simple small 3D printer and when they are market-ready, series production can be outsourced.
Additive manufacturing has a huge impact on the entire aerospace industry and is the innovative technology of the moment. Germany in particular wants to maintain its competitiveness and is investing heavily in this area. 3D printing offers opportunities and challenges in equal measure and will certainly continue to surprise us in the future.