As air traffic is steadily growing, the total volume is expected to roughly double over the next fifteen years. Even today, the industry is already under heavy load, as building and maintaining freight and passenger aircraft is a growing challenge. The CO2 emissions from operating flights also need to be reduced. And additive manufacturing paves the way for solutions.
In the aircraft construction sector, 3D printing makes faster production processes possible. Manufacturing can be performed precisely when needed. Another advantage: demand-driven additive manufacturing does not generate any of the excess or surplus that often occurs with series production. The process also allows lighter parts to be manufactured, which noticeably reduces the fuel consumption of the machines – the lower the weight, the less fuel is burned.
Constructing engines and turbines means mastering challenges such as optimizing volume, performance and environmental friendliness. In these areas, 3D printing can make a significant contribution. It allows engines with sophisticated geometries, defined aerodynamic and fluid dynamic properties to be produced, as well as lightweight structures whose individual parts weigh up to 60 % less. Processing superalloys is also more cost-effective with 3D printing, since the material usage rate is lower. The results: significantly reduced environmental pollution over the lifetime of the aircraft. Parts made from a single piece are also more resilient and less susceptible to damage.
Airbus is a global leader in the aerospace industry and related services. 3D printing technology by EOS helps Airbus to build a more cost- and resource-efficient aircraft. Additively manufacturing a locking shaft for aircraft doors achieved remarkable results:
Reduce cost drivers – a key factor to manufacture structural parts for the aviation sector more efficiently. Digitalized manufacturing processes offer wide-ranging opportunities. Thanks to additive manufacturing, multiple parts can be combined into a single component, eliminating production steps such as assembly. The process of storing spare parts, which currently ties up a lot of capital, is also becoming obsolete. Production only ever occurs when a part is needed, without requiring any preliminary processes. Additionally, additively manufactured structural parts are comparatively lighter, which helps to balance the CO2 footprint of aircraft.
Additive manufacturing with polymer technology is also becoming increasingly important for cabin interiors. There are several reasons: in this type of environment, high customization and flexible tool-free production are crucial. Materials used in the cabin also have to satisfy very strict requirements, e.g. in terms of flammability. The technology needs to be capable of processing these materials, especially when complex designs such as twisted strands are required. Finally, a consistent build process is necessary, with minimally complex post-processing, as well as a digital spare parts strategy and digital spare parts, with virtual inventories. Polymer technology for industrial 3D printing meets all of these criteria.
Etihad Engineering is the largest service provider for aircraft maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) in the Middle East. As a subsidiary of the Etihad Aviation Group, the company offers around-the-clock maintenance services, including design, composite material repairs, cabin refitting and part-related services, in its modern facilities at Abu Dhabi International Airport.
The EOS P 396 system allows parts to be manufactured from polymer materials such as PA 2241 FR and can therefore be used to manufacture cabin parts that are replaced during the aircraft inspection process known as C-checks. Defects can also be remedied quickly by manufacturing any needed parts while performing maintenance during regular aircraft downtime (line maintenance).
Etihad and EOS are known for high-quality solutions and technological innovations and share the same mindset: “Together, we want to take the design and production of parts for aircraft interiors to the next level,” says Markus Glasser, Senior Vice President for the EMEA Region at EOS. “Additively manufactured cabin interior parts offer significant added value thanks to the simplified repairs, lightweight design, shorter lead times and flexible customization options. This tackles some of the key challenges of the aerospace industry.”
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