Back in 1989, the first use of 3D printing technology took place in the aerospace industry. More than three decades later, aerospace contributes $10.4 billion to the additive manufacturing market with a 16.8% share.
Advantages offered by the 3D printing Australia space for the aviation and aerospace industry include the potential to produce intricate designs, lightweight components, and lower manufacturing costs.
Nonetheless, major industry players, such as MOOG, GE, Safran, Airbus, and GKN, all make use of the advantages of 3D printing. They have even taken measures to further its application through comprehensive research and development.
3D Printing Australia Benefits the Country’s Aviation and Aerospace Industry
When the production of highly complex parts can be manufactured only in small numbers, 3D printing can step in to become an appropriate answer. The aviation and aerospace fields, as we know them, require the use of high-quality parts with levels of complexity that can’t be left out by chance alone.
Advanced 3-dimensional designing tools make it possible for aviation engineers to design and come up with intricate geometries of parts. And they are not necessitated to spend so much money for that due to the use of costly tooling equipment.
Thus, it is safe to say that 3-dimensional printing, or additive manufacturing for that matter, is indeed a cost-effective method for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) when it comes to producing their required parts and equipment, although in very limited amounts only.
Weight is among the most significant considerations in aircraft design, along with aerodynamics and engine efficiency. Curbing aircraft weight is a must for aircraft manufacturers because it will significantly help them to lower carbon dioxide emissions of an aircraft, together with the amount of fuel that it consumes. With regard to spacecraft, their payload count is minimized.
For 3D printing technology to be exceptionally useful, particularly in the aviation and aerospace industry, the items produced have to be lightweight. The prospect of increasing the complexity of a component with topology optimization software and generative design is practically almost without bounds.
Hence, this characteristic of 3D printing in the Australian sphere makes it most ideal for use by aviation and aerospace engineers.
Repair and Maintenance
Proper maintenance of an aircraft, together with repair and overhaul work for them, is critical in the aircraft industry. The average lifespan of a typical aircraft varies between 20 and 30 years.
Direct Energy Deposition (DEP) is a type of metal 3D printing technology that is commonly used in aerospace and military manufacturing to help in restoration efforts for older, seasoned parts and equipment. Other expensive equipment may be replaced or can be repaired by using worn-out surfaces to apply new material.
It is used in a vast array of aerospace applications, namely metal parts. 3D printing helps in lowering the metal parts’ buy-to-fly ratio. In other words, the weight of the materials initially purchased is proportionate to the completed weight of the final product.
Titanium aircraft parts, for example, can have a buy-to-fly ratio of between 12:1 and 25:1 in traditional manufacturing. This equates to between 12 and 25 kilograms of raw material used to create a kilogram of parts.
With the aforementioned scenario in mind, around 90% of the produced material will be machined away in this case.
Pioneering Aerospace 3D Printing Technology
Leading aerospace and aviation companies are now using a range of additive manufacturing technologies. For example, Fused Deposition Modelling, otherwise known in the 3D printing Australian industry as ‘FDM’, is often used to build prototypes and equipment.
For instance, Latécoère, a French aerospace manufacturer, is now making use of FDM for their prototyping and tooling manufacturing requirements. By such action, the company was able to reduce its lead times by up to 95%. Additionally, FDM may be used to fabricate interior end parts for aircraft.
Although powder bed fusion (PBF) technologies are believed to be best suited for metal 3D printing, a powder bed fusion technology called PBF Direct can also serve this purpose.
Despite the difficulties, the aerospace industry is still significantly involved in the further growth process of additive manufacturing space, still contributing to new, exciting, and diverse product lines.
To expedite the certification process, bodies of government agencies, OEMs, and academic organizations can collaborate closely.
Industry insiders say that demand for 3D printing end-part has no other direction to go now but to grow and develop even further. By 2024, the aerospace industry will have grown to a valuation of over $3 billion.
At the rate things are going now for metal and polymer parts, with respect to ongoing research and development, they hold more potential to become more than just 3D-applicable materials for use in spaceships and aircraft for years to come.