Airbus 3D prints plane parts to get new model to market quicker

Passengers in Airbus-produced aircraft will be flying in partially 3D printed planes.

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Aeroplane manufacturer Airbus used 3D printing rather than traditional manufacturing to speed up its deliveries with a Stratasys printer.

The firm, which makes the renowned double-decker A380 used by airlines Emirates and British Airways, produced over 1000 “strong, lighter-weight parts” on a Stratasys FDM 3D printer, substantially cutting production time and manufacturing costs.

The parts were 3D printed in an Airbus specified resin - ULTEM 9085 for Fused Deposition Modeling (an additive manufacturing technology commercialised by the 3D vendor) – which provides high strength-to-weight ratio and is flame, smoke and toxicity compliant for use inside the aircraft. They have been installed used in the firm’s newest model, the A350 XWB aircraft.

Airbus used TIBCO's Spotfire Analytics plaftorm to streamline the manufacturing process for the A350 XWB family, which promises a "25 percent step-change in fuel efficiency compared to current long-range competitors", the firm said last year. 

Two-thirds of the new model’s lightweight airframe is made from advanced materials, combining 53 percent of composite structures with titanium and advanced aluminum alloys.

Before printing, Airbus uses HP’s high power computers, which are likened to ‘data centres in a box’, for design and simulation. It signed a five-year deal in 2014 to use the Performance Optimised Datacentres (PODs) in its headquarters in France and Germany.

Singapore Airlines, Vietnam Airlines and Ethiopian Airlines are a few of the firms to have ordered the partially 3D printed planes. 

While the immaturity of industrial strength material for 3D printing purposes has hampered the technology’s impact within enterprise, several large firms are using Israel based Stratasys’ printers in greater abundance. Unilever and General Electric have seen cost reductions and quicker time to market by 3D printing design and prototype parts.

Professional grade versions of the printers are available to purchase on Amazon.  

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