Why Aerospace Engineers Turn to 3D Printing

Why Aerospace Engineers Turn to 3D Printing

Aerospace engineers are primary users of additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing. These engineers were some of the first to utilize 3D printing in a large-scale way and they continue to be key users of the manufacturing method. Not only is this method both cheaper and more sustainable, but the practicality of the materials it creates being strong and lightweight makes it the perfect option for aerospace innovators. But what are the specific applications of additive manufacturing within this industry? Here are just a few.

Customization

AM technology has a massive effect on the aerospace industry, as the cost of creating extremely specific components is lowered, while the effectiveness of the aircraft using the components is increased. The cost reduction of 3D printing hundreds of fixtures, templates, and gauges is between 60-90%. It is significantly easier, because of the additive nature of 3D printing, to craft an item that fits every need of an aerospace engineer. The lightweight nature of the parts created goes a long way in solving huge problems that face the aerospace industry.

Prototyping

No longer do engineers have to wait a long period of time before seeing their visions come to life. With 3D printing, the process of taking a part from the ideation stage to the creation stage happens quickly. Engineers can get tailored multicolor prototype designs that are far more accurate to a finished product when using additive manufacturing. This ease of being able to visualize an end result is highly desirable. Rapid prototyping also means being able to see design flaws more easily, meaning engineers have quicker reaction times when it comes to making adjustments.

Production

Some people still think of 3D printing as a smaller industry — that 3D printers are used for smaller projects on a one-off basis — but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. The number of manufacturers who used 3D printing for full-scale production doubled from 2018 to 2019. Developments have been made regarding the size of industrial printers and the speed at which they are capable of producing final products. And the quality of these end products is high. This is ideal for aerospace companies, as production volumes for the industry are typically high — requiring more than 70,000 parts annually.

As for the future relationship between additive manufacturing and the aerospace industry, it’s looking up. 3D printing is continuing to advance in the manufacturing of different materials, which will be useful for engineers. The technology is convenient in all aspects of production, from research to final product manufacturing, and engineers will continue to use this to their advantage.