OEMs continue to make tremendous strides through adapting new technologies like 3D printing in the areas of manufacturing Parts in order to achieve lighter in weight high complex designs with reduced Lead Time, thus increasing the aircrafts’ efficiency.
3D printing is also known as Additive Manufacturing process and is usually referred to as Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) or Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF). In simpler terms, this means that FDM printers extrude a small amount of heated material, which is typically a type of plastic, to build an object or objects layer by layer. While there is a small percentage of Stereo Lithography (SLA) printers that harden a pool of polymer liquid resin by exposing it to focused UV light, most 3D printers are of the FDM variety. 3D printing of the part is new technology introduced in the aviation industry for manufacturing aircraft parts.
A study published in ‘Gartner’ on May 6, 2015 by Brian Krassenstein states that Airbus have decided to implement Additive Manufacturing that replaces the conventional manufacturing process for parts which are made up of plastics. Latest edition of Airbus Family - A350 xwb comes with more than 1000 parts manufactured using 3D print technology.
It is a great opportunity for Part 21 Certified Operators and MRO’s to adopt ‘3D - Printing’ to cope up with current best in practices set by manufacturers.