The aerospace and defense (A&D) industry is one of the earliest adopters of 3D printing, with the first use of the technology going back to 1989. Now, three decades later, A&D represents a considerable share of the global 3D printing & additive manufacturing market and heavily contributes to ongoing research efforts within the industry. The advancement of 3D printing & additive manufacturing within A&D is in large part driven by key industry players, including GE, Airbus, Boeing, Safran and GKN. These companies and others have identified the value proposition 3D printing brings to:
- Functional prototypes
- Lightweight components
As expected 3D printing for aerospace isn’t limited to prototypes. Real, functional parts are also being 3D printed and used in aircraft. A few examples of parts that can be produced with 3D printing include air ducts (SLS), wall panels (FDM) and even structural metal components (DMLS, EBM, DED).
For industries like aerospace and defense, where highly complex parts are produced in low volumes, 3D printing & additive manufacturing is ideal. Using the technology, complex geometries can be created without having to invest in expensive tooling equipment. This offers aerospace OEMs and suppliers a cost-effective way to produce small batches of parts cost-effectively.
Since the 3D printing & additive manufacturing process works by producing parts layer by layer, material is, for the most part, used only where needed. As a result, it produces less waste than traditional subtractive methods. The range of available 3D printable materials is constantly expanding, unlocking advanced aerospace applications. One of the key benefits of 3D printing & additive manufacturing is part consolidation: the ability to integrate multiple parts into a single component. Reducing the number of parts needed can significantly simplify the assembly and maintenance process by reducing the amount of time needed for assembly.
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