How 3D printing is shaping the future of aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul

A380 inside hangarAs a somewhat nerdy by-product of working in an industry that looks at manufacturing the world differently, I too find myself often viewing the world through an additive lens. Perhaps the place I do this most is when traveling on an airplane where I tend to scour the cabin for places where additive manufacturing (AM) could be present someday soon.

The lifespan of an aircraft, typically between 20 and 30 years, makes maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) and retrofit, both big and necessary businesses. Think of every plane you’ve been on in the last few years that still featured a now-defunct charging socket from the 1980s – aircraft are not changing overnight to keep up-to-date with consumer expectations. However,¬†Airbus’ Global Market Forecast¬†projects that over the next 20 years the commercial aircraft upgrades services market will be worth 180 billion USD.

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