Justifying the Move to Industrial 3D PrintingJuly 25, 2023
3D Printing Helicopter Parts and other Advanced Manufacturing ApplicationsAugust 1, 2023
Additive Manufacturing technology is a perfect fit for Aerospace manufacturers. The industry has a relatively low volume production and high mix of components making the aerospace sector one of the best fits for 3D printing manufacturing in the 3D printing market. Aerospace additive manufacturing includes creating end use aerospace parts as well as aerospace tooling. This means that 3D printing applications in aerospace include rapid prototyping for aerospace design and aerospace components. From interior components to rocket components for space exploration, the aerospace 3D printing market is diverse and growing.
Key Positive Factors Impacting Aerospace
Sustainability and Energy Conservation
Additive manufacturing produces lighter aircraft parts by using lighter materials and light-weight complex designs. Lighter 3D printed polymer and composite materials can offer strength comparable to some metals. Through optimized design methods, light-weight aircraft components can be designed that are not possible with traditional manufacturing processes like injection molding. Every pound of weight that can be eliminated from flight vehicles through the 3D printing process means lower fuel consumption.
Spare Part Availability
Old aircraft are becoming a liability for the aerospace companies. An aging fleet increases costs to the aviation industry because as aerospace components become obsolete new sources for these parts must be found. Additive manufacturing has a key role to play here as it can produce spare parts on-demand, on-site. The 3D printing process is more cost effective than keeping an inventory of spare parts. Instead of having to order expensive spare parts or store inventory, 3D printing systems can be used to generate functional parts through low volume production.
Speed of Innovation
The aviation industry has increasingly failed to meet projected timelines in recent decades. While there are several reasons for this, it is one area where 3D printing technologies can help.
A key value of additive is its ability to save time relative to traditional processes and this can help cut cycle times and accelerate time-to-market. In manufacturing the speed of designing and implementing aerospace tooling such as drill guides and other fixtures can be greatly increased by using 3D printers.
3D printing machines can aid in many aerospace research processes. These include not only rapid prototyping, but also investment casting, wind tunnel testing, composite layups, sacrificial tooling, and functional parts for an unmanned test flight. 3D printing is an integral tool in increasing the speed of aerospace engineering and aerospace research.
Stratasys polymer materials satisfy a diverse set of aerospace application requirements within the aerospace 3D printing market. Engineering thermoplastics and composite materials address the need for rapid prototyping and aerospace tooling needs. High-performance polymers like ULTEM™ resins meet flight-part criteria for high temperature and mechanical properties. Antero 840CN03 meets low-outgassing and electrostatic dissipative requirements needed for space exploration. These materials have been developed specifically to fit the needs of aerospace additive manufacturing and 3D printed aerospace tooling.
Material and Process Standards:
The primary aerospace companies work together to set aviation industry standards. For example, the National Center for Advanced Materials Performance (NCAMP) qualifies materials. NCAMP is a specialized organization that focuses on the qualification and certification of advanced materials for use in aerospace applications. NCAMP is affiliated with the National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) at Wichita State University.
NCAMP works in collaboration with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), materials suppliers (Including Stratasys), and regulatory authorities to establish industry-wide standards and guidelines for advanced materials used in the aerospace industry. Stratasys helps to make this data publicly available. Standardization benefits the entire aerospace industry, streamlining the qualification process for materials and enhancing confidence in adopting additive manufacturing technologies.
Additive manufacturing material approved for Aircraft interiors:
ULTEM™ 9085 is a high-performance thermoplastic material that is widely used in the aerospace industry for applications that require strong, lightweight, and heat-resistant aerospace components. Stratasys was one of the key developers of the material.
ULTEM™ 9085 is available in filament form and is specifically formulated for use in high temperature 3D printing processes like Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM). Its 3D printing compatibility allows for the creation of complex geometry and lightweight structures that would be challenging to manufacture using traditional methods.
Key characteristics of ULTEM™ 9085 include:
High Strength-to-Weight Ratio:
ULTEM™ 9085 offers excellent strength and stiffness while remaining relatively lightweight. This property makes it ideal for applications where structural integrity and weight reduction are critical, such as in aerospace and automotive industries.
ULTEM™ 9085 exhibits exceptional thermal resistance, allowing it to maintain its mechanical properties and dimensional stability in high-temperature environments (up to 400 degrees F).
The material is inherently flame-retardant, meeting rigorous safety requirements in the aerospace industry, where fire safety is of utmost importance.
ULTEM™ 9085 is resistant to a wide range of chemicals, making it suitable for applications that involve exposure to several aggressive substances or fluids.
Certifications and Standards:
Due to its outstanding mechanical properties and flame resistance, ULTEM™ 9085 is commonly used in aerospace applications that require compliance with aviation regulations, such as those set by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).
Other 3D printing materials used in the Aerospace industry:
ST-130 Soluble Support for sacrificial composite material layups
Additive Manufacturing Technology used in Aerospace
Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)
Programmable PhotoPolymerization (P3) Technology
Stereolithography (SL) the Neo Series
Key 3D Printing Application Areas in the Aerospace Industry:
- 3D Printing Helicopter Parts & Advanced Manufacturing Applications
- Commercial & Defense Aviation Industry: 3D Printed End Use Parts
- 3D Printed Drone Parts for the Aerospace Industry