Mexico: Will 3D Printing Soon Be The Origin Of 40% Of The Production Of The Components Of An Airplane?

Last Updated: 13 September 2019
Article by Renaud Severac
Most Read Contributor in Mexico, August 2019

3D printing technologies are announced as one of the most important developments in the next few years in industrial production, including the aeronautical sector. We invite you to discover what are the possible advantages for companies in the aerospace sector.

What are the different applications of 3D printing in the aeronautical sector?

Additive manufacturing (by addition of matter) of 3D printers allows the manufacturers of the sector to quickly innovate, to carry out rigorous tests and to develop more efficient tools, in short term, and with ergonomics of greater use. All this, allows to optimize resources and reduce production costs.

Can we consider an industrialization of printed pieces or are they only useful for testing and prototypes?

The major players in the aerospace sector have started a certification approach of a significant number of parts that include this manufacturing process. A prerequisite before industrializing production. The limitations of the aeronautical sector impose an important work of R&D, technology certification, materials, suppliers ...

What are the advantages of the pieces produced with 3D printing?

In general, a high precision of the design and production, a reduction of the residues of matter and a reduction of the costs and time of production. The maintenance required is less important, the printers can work at night. In the aeronautical sector, 3D printing is also synonymous of reducing weight in aircraft, as well as reducing fuel consumption and improving performance. Finally, builders can reduce their tool because assembly is not required: everything is printed in one piece.

Are the parts sufficiently solid for an application in the aeronautical sector?

Materials used in the aerospace sector, such as ULTEM 9085 (FDM thermoplastic, for "molded material deposit modeling") are approved for their high force / weight ratio in compliance with FST (flammability, smoke and toxicity) standards for its application to the interior of airplanes. It is the ideal material for cabin applications such as the design of conduits, protective cover and electrical box.

What are the companies that turn to 3D printing?

Airbus uses it to produce parts for its A350XWB aircraft. The force / weight ratio allows to create robust, lighter parts, significantly reducing manufacturing costs and execution times. Thus, some companies can perform complex assemblies with 16 parts instead of 140, reducing costs and risks through additive manufacturing. NASA has used 3D printing to produce more than 70 pieces of the "Rover" tested on the rocks and sand of the Arizona desert before sending it to the planet Mars. The rapid generation of prototypes has allowed them to optimize the aerodynamic design of their vehicles.

How will 3D printing evolve by taking a further step towards the industrialization of aeronautical parts?

Experts agree that within 10 years, at least 40 to 50% of the components of the aircraft will be produced with 3D printing, instead of the 4 to 5% that we currently have. Ten years later, there will be a limited number of pieces that will not be created by additive printing, or that will not resort to this technology during its production.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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