Did you know that 3D printing has entered the industry of aerospace manufacturing, too?
World’s largest aerospace firms are extensively use 3D printers to speed up the manufacturing process, save money and make aircraft that burn less fuel. But more importantly, 3D printers are capable of producing parts that are superior to those made using traditional methods.
The first Airbus plane to use a part made with a 3D printer took off in 2014. Now the technology is a vital tool for aircraft manufacturers that are racing to meet skyrocketing demand for new planes.
3D printers deposit material layer by layer to create a solid object. Plastic is the most commonly used material, but printing with titanium, stainless steel, ceramics and sand is becoming more popular.
Boeing has so far used 3D printing to make 60,000 parts for its planes. That’s a tiny percentage (a typical Boeing 747 has 6 million parts), but the company is investing heavily in the technology.
The International Air Transport Association is expecting the number of passengers to double over the next two decades to 8.2 billion in 2037. That means a lot more planes need to be built — a challenge that 3D printing can help with.
The use of lighter materials made possible by 3D printing should also help the environment. The case for reduced emissions is simple: Lighter aircraft burn less fuel.
Some experts worry that hackers could sabotage 3D printers (as they already do the desktop printers) and intentionally make the parts worse in quality. Both Boeing and Airbus say they will only use 3D printers in ways that have been certified as safe by regulators.