Airbus Seeing Value of 3D Printed Parts

The aircraft OEM committed to using 3D printing for aircraft components five years ago, but the cost and time of parts redesigns remain challenges.

Airbus incorporates additive manufactured parts on its A350, and it also is digitally redesigning components for other platforms to  avoid sourcing them from a new supplier—especially on legacy platforms.

“3D printing is a fantastic tool and is something Airbus is already using in a very opportunistic way,” said Cyrille Schwob, Airbus head of technology–Asia Pacific, speaking at the Aerospace & MRO Summit Bangkok last week when discussing new technologies in the aviation maintenance segment. which also looked at the use of drones in aircraft inspections.

However, going down the route of 3D printing parts isn’t an easy process with cost and time being two challenges, he says. “When printing a 3D printed part to fit on an aircraft with an AOG, if the part was not made to be 3D printed in the first place, then it means that the part needs to be re-designed with a new material or a new process being carried out by another supplier that needs to be re-qualified. Not only does this process cost money but it also costs time as parts need to be tested against the design.” Following this, Schwob says the 3D printed part needs to be taken to inspect the surface finish. “It’s actually a very lengthy and costly process,” he adds.

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