Thanks to numerous fantastic test results, you could start think that metal 3D printing has become the most normal thing in the world. Just earlier this month, NavAir successfully tested a MV-22B Osprey fitted with a partially 3D printed engine nacelle, and plenty of similar stories are appearing regularly. You might even be wondering why it took so long. After a decade of innovation, surely we should have progressed passed single 3D printed components? In reality, however, aerospace metal 3D printing has been stuck in a kind of limbo– as nothing more than an interesting new technology that needs more study.
This is perfectly illustrated by the pioneering efforts of Honeywell Aerospace, a global provider of integrated avionics, engines, systems and service solutions for various partners from the aerospace, aviation and defense industries. They were one of the first to begin experimenting with metal 3D printing way back in 2010, but they haven’t gotten much further than a few practical test parts yet. But it seems as though the technology is reaching a turning point, as it is receiving FAA approval and has also become cheaper and faster than competing technologies. As a result, Honeywell has now begun taking the 3D printing technology out of the laboratories, and into the engine development realm. Metal 3D printing is finally ready for lift-off.