Stratasys, the global leader in 3D printing solutions, has revealed that aircraft manufacturer, Airbus, has extended their contract with them to continue production of 3D printed aircraft parts for their aircraft interiors.
While the contract length was undisclosed, the production of parts will now extend beyond the A350 and will now include A300, A330, A340, and A320, as well as spare parts production for maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO).
Since 2013, the Airbus A350 XWB (extra wide body) passenger airliner has incorporated 3D printed parts such as non-structural brackets with materials that have been certified and qualified for airworthiness such as ULTEM 9085.
Stratasys’s ULTEM 9085 resin combines a high strength-to-weight ratio with flame, smoke, and toxicity (FST) compliance for aircraft flight parts, and has helped Airbus to increase supply chain flexibility and meet delivery deadlines.
One benefit of 3D printed parts is that they can be printed on demand which is crucial for Airbus that will require spares for the servicing of aircraft for decades. By printing spares on demand, Airbus can eliminate the worries of dealing with gigantic storage space and capital requirements for storing spares, and reduce overall maintenance costs.
The airline industry was hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, with signs showing that recovery could take a few more years to return to normalcy. Aviation will eventually recover undoubtedly but a new approach should be considered.
One consideration should be relying on AM to produce strong yet lightweight parts together with consolidated assemblies to overcome supply chain constraints, and make MRO operations more agile and cost-effective with digital inventories.