Challenges remain as ‘3D printing’ develops

Additive manufacturing (AM) has significant potential for aerospace, according to industry figures, though challenges remain in certification, the supply of materials, and other areas.

3D-printed air duct component

AM—also known as 3D printing—allows manufacturers to produce complex geometries using lightweight materials. These shapes often cannot be made using conventional methods, while the parts can be “printed” from a computer file, even on remote sites.

The technology was the subject of a recent paper by Scott Sevcik, vice president of the Aerospace Business Segment at Stratasys. The AM solutions provider has worked with Diehl Aviation, Marshall Aerospace, and other companies. While the most common form of AM technology—Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM)—has been used in aerospace for almost 30 years for prototyping purposes, the portfolio of materials and uses is rapidly expanding, the paper notes, meeting the stringent requirements needed to make aircraft parts flightworthy and achieving the levels of repeatability demanded to produce parts with consistent performance.

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