Airbus Use Over 1,000 3D Printed Parts for A350 Aircraft

by Abdul Rehman on May 31, 2015

Airbus A350The ancient man saw birds soaring in the sky and though envious of their flight remarked “If God had wanted us to fly, he would have given us wings” in order to content himself.

However, he didn’t realize that God had gifted him with a far greater asset: a curious and creative mind.

Today’s era of flight is just one of the manifestations of this great asset. However, flight, as we know it today, is not without problems. The biggest problem with it is that it is highly expensive.

Millions of dollars are required to produce a single airplane and perhaps millions more to fuel it. This makes air travel very expensive, affordable only to the relatively rich. The dream of flight remains elusive for the rest of humans.

We told you about the potential Benefits 3D Printing Can Bring to Aviation in 2013. Perhaps, this technology has answers to all the problems that aviation faces today. Realizing the importance of additive printing, Airbus, a leading aircraft-manufacturing company of Europe, has used Over 1000 3D Printed Parts in its latest A350 XWB aircraft, heralding a new age of 3D printed aviation.

Airbus LogoAirbus, a subdivision of Airbus Group, specializes in the manufacture and maintenance of airplanes. Based in Blagnac, France, it is at the forefront of innovation in the field of aviation. In 2013, the company announced its commitment to reduce the cost of air travel through the use of additive printing. In order to achieve its goal, Airbus partnered with a leading 3D printing company, Stratasys, to produce durable 3D printed parts for use in its airplanes.

As a result of this partnership, the company’s latest A350 XWB airplane includes over 1000 3D printed parts, setting a new record for the number of 3D printed parts used in a single airplane. These parts were created using Stratasys Ultem 9085 material which not only possesses high strength but is also FST (Flame, Smoke, Toxicity) compliant for safety standards, making it perfect for use in aircrafts.

The A350 XWB was announced last year and will be ready for commercial flights later this year. Dan Yalon, Executive Vice President, Business Development, Marketing & Vertical Solutions at Stratasys expresses his delight in this partnership with the following words:

“Both companies share a vision of applying innovative technologies to design and manufacturing to create game-changing benefits. Our additive manufacturing solutions can produce complex parts on-demand, ensuring on time delivery while streamlining supply chains.”

You’re probably wondering why 3D printing is such a game-changing technology for aviation. Well, the most obvious benefit is cost-reduction. In order to manufacture 3D printed aircraft parts, the only prerequisites are a high-quality Metal 3D Printer and raw material which in most cases is metal powder. This is in contrast to the complex machinery and huge factories used traditionally to manufacture aircraft parts. According to data provided by Airbus, 3D printed parts cost around 80% less!

Stratasys LogoCheaper airplanes would soon translate into cheaper air travel. Another benefit that additive manufacturing brings is its speed. 3D printed parts take up to 70% less time to manufacture as compared to traditional parts. A complex part composing of two or more parts can be printed as a single part through 3D printing; this is simply not possible with traditional methods. This means that in future, it could take days instead of weeks to manufacture a complete airplane.

3D printing is also more Environment Friendly as it produces zero waste. All the raw material is used up to make the parts; there’s no waste. In contrast, traditional manufacturing methods produce a lot of metal waste. Additive printing also allows the manufacture of parts that weigh a lot less than traditional aircraft parts.

This could decrease the weight of the airplanes and as a result, their fuel consumption. Finally, with 3D printing it is a lot easier to upgrade parts of old airplanes into new ones. Instead of contacting the original manufacturer or searching for old blueprints, the company can simply design similar parts in a computer and print them out with a 3D printer. These benefits are described aptly on Airbus YouTube channel. Dan Yalon from Stratasys says:

“Additive manufacturing greatly improves the buy-to-fly ratio as significantly less material is wasted than with conventional manufacturing methods. Stratasys is looking forward to bringing these and other advantages to its collaboration with Airbus.”

So, what can we expect from the merging of 3D printing and aviation in future? As already mentioned, with 3D printing, air travel is bound to become less expensive as airplanes are much cheaper to manufacture with additive manufacturing. Perhaps this is what air travel needs to go mainstream and maybe in the future, a trip across Europe on a plane would cost no more than a trip to another town by bus.

However, Airbus envisions a lot more than simply cost reduction for the Future of Aviation. It imagines smart airplanes with extraordinary capabilities. These include a transparent plane during flight to give a better view of the surroundings and self-healing passenger seats.

Transparent PlaneOr how about a plane capable of fuelling itself through the body energy of passengers and holographic virtual reality entertainment areas within the airplane.

All these dazzling prospects can only be made possible through additive printing, as traditional manufacturing methods are simply incapable of handling such complexity.

Given the myriad problems that air travel faces today, it appears that the secret of flight has only been half uncovered by humans. The key to uncovering the complete secret probably rests with 3D printing. In the era of 3D printing, everyone on the planet will have wings to fly wherever he wants, whenever he wants.

What do you think about the utilization of 3D Printing in Aviation? Do you believe it will revolutionize aviation completely? Let us know your thoughts in the Comments. Also, please Like and Share the article with your friends.

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