3D Printing Helicopter Parts and other Advanced Manufacturing ApplicationsAugust 1, 2023
3D Printed Drone Parts for the Aerospace IndustryAugust 1, 2023
3D printing technology has found numerous applications in the aviation sector. The aerospace industry is a key 3D printing market. 3D printing applications for aerospace have come a long way from rapid prototyping to functional parts. 3D printing capabilities allow for complex designs and lightweight structures for weight reduction that are not possible with traditional manufacturing methods such as injection molding. From cabin interior parts to engine parts there are many aircraft parts that can be moved to 3D printers for cost savings. The following list is not complete but highlights specific examples where 3D printing is being utilized in aerospace companies for both commercial and defense.
Ducts and Fluid Flow
The aerospace 3D printing market often center around ducts. This is because traditional manufacturing processes do not allow complex designs that are easy to fabricate using 3D printing technologies. When used in combination with composite materials, these become lightweight structures.
Electronic Cooling Duct
3D printing is used to fabricate cooling ducts that help regulate and manage the temperature of electronic components in aircraft systems. These ducts can be directly printed or used to fabricate ducts made from composite materials.
3D printed defog airducts help visibility by efficiently managing condensation and fogging on cockpit windows.
Environmental Control System Ducting
Additive manufacturing is employed to create ducts and channels that facilitate the distribution of conditioned air throughout the aircraft for environmental control. This is a great example of end use cabin interior parts.
Filter Boxes / Connectors / Reducers
3D printing is used to produce filter boxes, connectors, and reducers that ensure efficient airflow and filtration in various aircraft systems.
Additive manufacturing is employed to fabricate microvanes, which are aerodynamic attachments that improve the performance and fuel efficiency of aircraft. This is a great example of something that printing has taken from wind tunnel testing, to end use parts.
Air Intake Plenum / Manifolds
3D printing is used to fabricate air intake plenums and manifolds, which are essential components of the aircraft’s propulsion system. This is a key example of how aerospace 3D printing can create engine parts.
3D printing is used to produce drain fairings that protect openings and facilitate the drainage of fluids on the aircraft’s surface.
The ability to create ESD parts from 3D printing materials has opened up a wide range of applications in the aerospace 3d printing market. Aerospace parts may need to resist static so that critical electronics are not damaged during flight.
Wire Guides / Conduits
3D printed wire guides and conduits are used to organize and route wiring and cables neatly throughout the aircraft.
Electrical Connector / Wiring Blocks
Additive manufacturing is employed to fabricate custom electrical connectors and wiring blocks for specific aircraft applications.
Camera / Gimbal Mount
Additive manufacturing is employed to create mounts for cameras and gimbals used in various aircraft surveillance and imaging systems.
Insulation and Protection
Foreign Object Damage (FOD) Barriers
Additive manufacturing is utilized to create protective barriers that prevent foreign object damage to critical components in the aircraft.
Brackets / Covers
Additive manufacturing is utilized to produce brackets and covers that support and protect various aircraft components.
Additive manufacturing is utilized to create custom gaskets that provide sealing and insulation in critical areas of the aircraft.
Clips and Clamps
3D printing is used to produce lightweight and precise clips and clamps that secure components in place during flight.
Hydraulics Supports / Stand Offs
Additive manufacturing is utilized to create supports and stand-offs for hydraulic components, helping maintain proper positioning and alignment.
3D printing is used to produce connectors that facilitate the assembly of different components and systems in the aircraft.
3D printing is used to create spacers that help maintain the proper distance between components in the aircraft.
Plated Production Parts
3D printing is employed to produce plated parts with specific coatings, enhancing their performance and corrosion resistance.
These applications demonstrate the versatility of 3D printing in the aerospace sector. The ability to achieve lightweight structures, low volume production, and save production sets 3d printing apart from conventional manufacturing methods. These examples only cover end use parts, but 3d printing can help reduce aerospace production time by aiding other conventional manufacturing methods. These include investment casting, composite layups, and manufacturing tooling. Furthermore, there is great potential in spare parts, and customization and personalization in the aviation industry. Industrial 3D printing offers innovative solutions to both commercial and defense aircraft production process.
Here are two case Studies to illustrate some of the applications listed above. Click on the thumbnail image to see the full page:
More 3D Printing in Aerospace Industry Key Application Areas: