Farsoon supports successful Long March-5 Mars launch with 3D printed polymer parts

China has announced the successful launch of its Long March-5 carrier rocket from the Wenchang Space Launch Center – a multi-stage vehicle carrying the Tianwen-1 Mars probe into the red planet’s orbit. The heavy-lift rocket, which took off on July 23, features a set of polymer static firing skirts additively manufactured on a Farsoon HT1001P […]

Singaporean Company Gets Certified for Aviation Printing

AFS logo featured imageSingapore-based Additive Flight Solutions Pte. Ltd. has received AS9100D certification, which will enable the company to provide parts to the aerospace industry. AS9100D is an aerospace quality management system akin to ISO 9001 (it actually contains ISO 9001, and a whole lot more), and having this certification is a requirement for doing business in the […]

Russian state successfully flight tests 3D printed gas turbine engine

The Russian state-backed Advanced Research Foundation (FPI) and Federal State Unitary Enterprise (VIAM) have flight-tested their 3D printed MGTD-20 gas turbine engine for the first time. The motor was evaluated onboard a light Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), which was launched over the Kazanbash aviation center in Tatarstan, around 500 miles east of Moscow. Utilizing 3D […]

Additive Flight Solutions gains AS9100D certification for its 3D printed aerospace parts 

Additive Flight Solutions (AFS), a joint venture between 3D printer manufacturer Stratasys and Singaporian aircraft specialist SIA Engineering Company (SIAEC), has received AS9100D Certification.  Combining Stratasys’ additive manufacturing knowledge with SIAEC’s expertise in spare parts, AFS has gained international accreditation for its 3D printed aerospace parts. The certification is a standardized quality management and assurance […]

Burloak Technologies and MDA sign new five year deal to 3D print satellite components 

Canadian manufacturing service bureau Burloak Technologies and communications company MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) have agreed to collaborate in order to develop 3D printed satellite parts.  The deal will see the companies continue their ongoing partnership for at least another five years, using additive manufacturing to optimize the design and manufacturability of a range of […]

BAE Systems installs fourth Stratasys F900 3D printer in ‘Factory of the Future’ initiative

Multinational aerospace company BAE Systems has announced the installation of its fourth Stratasys F900 system, as the business continues to drive down costs as part of its ‘Factory of the Future’ initiative.  Installed at the defense contractor’s manufacturing site in Samlesbury, UK, the 3D printer will be used to produce prototypes, tooling, and end-use parts […]

Orbex 3D printed rocket to be the first launched from UK’s new ‘Sutherland Space Hub’

British aerospace company Orbex has announced that its 3D printed rockets will be the first to launch from the UK’s new spaceport, which is currently under construction in Scotland.  The first orbital spaceflight to launch from British soil has edged a step closer following the Scottish Highland Council’s decision to approve the construction of the […]

The Future Of Aerospace 3D Printing

Innovations in the aerospace industry have been seeing huge strives when it comes to 3D printing. Aerospace companies and organizations from around the globe are using 3D printing for both prototyping and end-use parts. These applications have been ramping up for years — and now we’re looking ahead to the future of 3D printing in aerospace.

Aerospace
3D Printing Today

Aerospace is a unique fit for 3D printing, offering a prime application area for many of the benefits of additive manufacturing technologies. Among these benefits are:

  • Part consolidation
  • Lightweighting
  • Complex geometries (“freedom of design”)
  • Rapid prototyping
  • Low-volume production
  • Digital inventory

Leveraging these benefits is proving
transformative for aerospace manufacturing as today’s aircraft, rockets, and
other commercial, private, and military aerospace builds are increasingly able
to perform better than ever before. Fewer, lighter parts mean fewer assembly
points that could be a potential weakness as well as a lighter weight
structure, enhancing fuel efficiency and load capabilities.

Aerospace has long been a ‘city on a hill’ for
additive manufacturing, offering highly visible proof points of the
technology’s high-flying potential to very literally fly high.

Like in the automotive industry, many
aerospace entities have been using 3D printing internally for years, if not
decades. Also like the automotive industry, though, many companies have seen
the technology as a competitive advantage best kept somewhat under wraps. This
has perhaps benefited these companies’ bottom lines — but it has limited the
visibility of these applications.

The GE fuel nozzle — which famously reduced from approximately 20 welded pieces into one 3D printed (and 25% lighter weight) piece — was among one of the highest-profile individual applications to be publicly shared. Such use cases are only ramping up; between 2015 and 2018, for example, GE 3D printed 30,000 of those fuel nozzles. Still, though, these examples are often heard over and over again because many other specific use cases are still seen as proprietary ‘secret sauce’ and not public knowledge.

The cat’s out of the bag by now, though, and
it’s almost an assumption that any aerospace company is in some way utilizing
3D printing in its operations.

From SpaceX and NASA to Boeing and Airbus,
this is certainly the case. These companies are among the highest-profile in
aerospace to share at least some look into their 3D printing usage.
Applications range from visible cabin components in passenger airplanes to
made-in-space tools on the International Space Station, with both mission
critical and aesthetic uses well represented.

The secrecy of ‘secret sauce’ is slowly
changing, too, as in addition to broadening adoption of 3D printing, space
exploration is becoming privatized.

Organizations like SpaceX certainly have their fair share of trade secrets but are also open about their use of 3D printing in applications from spacecraft to personalized astronaut helmets. 3D printing is often coming into play as well to not only make components of rocket engines, but also in new uses such as at Rocket Crafters for their fuel grains.

Smaller, private companies working in the
space industry are celebrating the technologies they use to gain traction in
technological advance and out-of-this-world achievements. By highlighting
instead of hiding the tech helping them to accelerate toward their own
liftoffs, these new entities are contributing directly to a shift in the
conversation around aerospace technologies.

Aerospace
3D Printing Tomorrow

When we look ahead, we can see an even brighter
future for an aerospace industry making more and better use of additive
manufacturing opportunities.

While certainly the technologies will improve,
providing natural points of improvement even from those areas already
leveraging additive manufacturing, the largest single point of future impact
for aerospace overall will simply be wider spread adoption.

While the 3D printing industry has
historically been excellent at internally sharing the benefits of the
technology (like those bulleted above), a sticking point has been in
externalizing this message. Aerospace becoming a more open industry with these
new private entities on the rise, and with more participants discussing the
advanced technologies they put to use every day, will see industrial additive manufacturing
gaining more attention, and more traction, overall.

If the GE fuel nozzle made anyone do a
double-take, the next innovations to come — or even those already accomplished
and not yet publicized — are sure to be fully head-turning.

Further parts consolidation, lightweighting,
and other means of taking advantage of the freedoms that DfAM (design for
additive manufacturing) enables have the potential to see massive advances in
aircraft and spacecraft manufacture.

By optimizing every part of an aircraft,
completely rethinking and redesigning the whole, a manufacturer might see
unprecedented capabilities emerge. In an industry where every ounce of
structural weight matters and lessening any possible point of failure is a
must, industrial 3D printing is an obvious fit.

The technology will only continue to make headway into the aerospace industry going forward, and with that larger general footprint will come more significant discrete advances. The future of aerospace and 3D printing is a relationship that will be ever more tightly intertwined.

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Technion students complete first test flight with 3D printed aircraft

Students and staff from the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology have successfully completed the first test flight of the A3TB (Active Aeroelastic Aircraft Testbed), an experimental setup used to study aircraft dynamics and wing flexibility. The unmanned aircraft is entirely 3D printed, and won the Student Project Competition during the 60th Israel Annual Conference […]

US Air Force uses Senvol software to develop multi-laser 3D printing applications

The US Air Force is using Senvol’s data-driven machine learning software for additive manufacturing (AM), to enable the production of large-scale aerospace parts using multi-laser 3D printing technology. Utilizing an EOS powder bed fusion (LPBF) 3D printer, the program is focused on developing baseline mechanical properties and design allowables, to optimize the production of end-use […]