The aviation industry is considered to be way too obsessed with performance and reliability. That could be the reason that the aviation industry has never shield away from technology. Although the industry has strict regulatory standards, there have been considerable technological advancements in all the areas. The Progress in the aircraft development, maintenance, and the transportation have been pretty rapid.
The aerospace industry has always been focused on lower productions but complex ones. However, as the consumer air travels are increasing, the demand for new aircraft too are growing. The OEMs and suppliers struggle to provide the solutions which are both fast and cost-effective. That’s when 3D printing comes into the picture. Though 3D printing is 30 years old, yet it is still evolving with each passing day. 3D printing enables aerospace designers and manufacturers to create a range of aircraft parts with complex designs. It offers multi-dimensional benefits. The technique was being used for last 15 years for printing full-size parts. However, it is now used in a wide range and designers are analyzing the future possibilities.
How can the Aviation Industry benefit from 3D printing?
- Improved Development cycle: It enables the designers to skip tooling production and speed up the overall process of prototyping and create the final conceptual design.
- Complex-design parts: Complex and elaborate designs can be made with much ease with 3D technique. This helps create more customized end products.
- Production Speed: 3D printing allows on-demand manufacturing as it produces parts in just a few hours. This reduces the need for warehousing and cost incurred by spares going obsolete.
- Reduction in Weight: Lighter aircraft are fuel efficient and give airlines the competitive advantage. 3D technique creates more efficient geometric designs and carve out unnecessary materials.
- Material Efficiency: Though the raw powder material to create 3D printing is expensive yet the overall process creates far lesser material waste.
What are the challenges that lie ahead for 3D technology?
The obstacles that are faced by 3D technology are not being able to combine different materials during the manufacturing process.
- Development of new materials
- Manufacturer-specific materials, nonstandard for use on more than one AM system
- High costs of raw materials
- Low working speed
- Small build volumes limiting the part size
- Automation of series production
- Lack of qualification standards
- Need for post-processing
- Skills availability
However, these challenges seem quite small when we witness how far the 3D printing technology has travelled in the past 30 years. There is an absolute room for growth and further advancement in the field.