Before COVID-19 hit, the aerospace industry was flying and aerospace additive manufacturing had taken off. Short, medium and long-term perspectives were excellent and the entire aerospace industrial segment was jumping right AM for final part production. That all came to a virtual standstill for several months, as global aviation traffic collapsed and demand for new planes slowed dramatically.

However, the advantages of weight optimization for any object that leaves the ground are such that the benefits from topology optimization and generative, optimized lattice geometries, made possible by AM, remained clear. In addition, AM gradually emerged as a solution to address supply chain resiliency issues and enabled production flexibility both in terms of meeting smaller orders on-demand, without the need of building large inventories, and shifting to new production lines (for example medical supplies) as needed. Even space companies like Blue Origin were 3D printing PPE devices at the height of the COVID-19 supply chain crisis.

For just over a year a lot of the attention of aerospace additive manufacturing companies shifted towards new aerospace businesses, such as electric flight, new supersonic flight, VTOL‘s, personal fight devices, commercial aviation, drones, defense and especially space. Last year, 3dpbm’s AM focus on aerospace zoomed in specifically on the use of AM in these exciting segments of the aerospace industry. The use of AM in Space, in particular, has really taken off, with several companies now trailing SpaceX and using AM to make the jump into orbit more accessible and affordable.

Now the commercial aviation industry seems set to take back its leading role both within the aerospace segment and in driving the evolution of additive manufacturing for final parts production. Important new opportunities continue to emerge in this area in both metal AM and polymer AM, used for metal replacement and composites. Advancements in CAD, CAE, CAM and PLM software are driving the need for AM in general and commercial aviation manufacturing. More optimized, complex shapes and the need for a more automated production process make AM ideal for a growing number of production requirements.

The new aerospace industry does not have to wait for new, higher speed AM technologies. The productivity offered by current polymer powder bed fusion and even thermoplastic filament extrusion systems – as well as metal powder bed fusion, directed energy deposition systems and soon metal binder jetting – is already enough to meet demand. And the extensive range of high-performance materials now supported by these technologies is an ideal fit for many advanced flying parts.

Follow us this month of June as we zoom in on the most interesting, relevant, profitable and beneficial applications of aerospace additive manufacturing.

  • CSEM to develop 3D printed pipes with embedded sensors as part of the AHEAD project, for CERN and the European space industry research.

    CSEM to develop 3D printed pipes with embedded sensors

    CSEM is coordinating a high-profile EU-funded project to enhance the performance of thermal control systems by developing 3D printed pipes with embedded sensors. In addition to potentially opening up new avenues of fundamental research for both CERN and the European space industry, these smart pipes could have uses in areas…

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  • GA-ASI and Conflux to develop a new Fuel Oil Heat Exchanger (FOHE) for the MQ-9B remotely-piloted aircraft.

    GA-ASI and Conflux to develop new FOHE for the MQ-9B aircraft

    General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) is working with long-time collaborator Conflux Technology on the design and manufacture of a new Fuel Oil Heat Exchanger (FOHE) for the MQ-9B. GA-ASI is developing this enhanced thermal solution for its MQ-9B SkyGuardian and SeaGuardian remotely-piloted aircraft. GA-ASI is a leading developer of…

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  • PrintSky, the joint venture between Sogeclair and AddUp, will focus on developing a new generation of actuation systems for Collins Aerospace

    PrintSky to develop actuation systems for Collins Aerospace

    PrintSky, a French joint venture between Sogeclair and AddUp, created in 2019, and specialized in developing and manufacturing complex metal 3D printing components, has been selected by Collins Aerospace to participate in its research program for a new generation of flight actuation. Supported by the French Civil Aviation Authority (DGAC)…

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  • SLM Solution and CTC to develop 1.5 meter z-axis NXG XIIE

    Concurrent Technologies Corporation (CTC) was recently awarded a $5.2 million U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) contract that involves building the world’s largest additive manufacturing (AM) machine, the NXG XIIE. The project intends to overcome the limits of current AM (3D) equipment to build longer parts for critical defense applications.…

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  • Bee-inspired 3D printing drones, AKA Aerial-AM, developed by Imperial College London and Empa researchers.

    3D printing drones, AKA Aerial-AM, developed by researchers

    Imperial College London and Empa researchers have created a fleet of bee-inspired flying 3D printing drones, collectively known as Aerial Additive Manufacturing (Aerial-AM), for building and repairing structures in-flight. The technology could ultimately be used for manufacturing and building in difficult-to-access or dangerous locations, such as tall buildings, or help…

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  • CRP Technology 3D prints parts for FLYING-CAM Discovery drone

    FLYING-CAM, the world leader in design and manufacturing of unmanned helicopters and pioneer of professional drone filming services, celebrated its 30th anniversary with the World premiere of Discovery, its newest unmanned aircraft system. CRP Technology’s long-term collaboration with the unmanned airborne solutions developer, Award-winning FLYING-CAM led to the construction of…

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  • AS9100D certification, for aerospace parts, pursued by AML3D. The Aerospace Quality Management System AS9100D:2016 Accreditation..

    AML3D expands Boeing contract for metal AM test parts

    WAM metal deposition company AL3D Limited (AML3D) continues to develop its strategically important relationship with the Boeing Company by agreeing to an expanded scope for the supply of 3D printed components.  Boeing has updated the scope of the July 2022 purchase contract to include the next phase of Aluminium test…

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  • Kevton Technologies acquires seven Sapphire 3D printers

    Kevton Technologies, a subsidiary of Houston-based contract manufacturer Kevton Industries, has acquired seven Sapphire 3D printers from Velo3D to provide its customers with high-quality, additively manufactured parts. The purchase is one the largest ever with Velo3D from a contract manufacturer and will make Kevton Technologies one of the top suppliers…

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  • Nikon’s AM shopping spree continues with Optisys

    After entering the AM market both directly (with internally developed solutions, including metrology) and through major acquisitions (aerospace AM service provider Morf3D and laser PBF hardware manufacturer SLM Solutions) Nikon Corporation has now acquired its first AM application developer, Optisys, Inc. The Utah-based company is a global leader in the…

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  • Orbital Composites has been selected by AFWERX (US Air Force) to commercialize its mobile, autonomous 3D printing drone factory.

    Orbital Composites secures second US Air Force contract

    Orbital Composites, an official Kuka Systems partner, has been selected by AFWERX, a program office at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) that connects innovators across government, industry, and academia, for a Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase II focused on mobile, autonomous 3D printed drone manufacturing to investigate the…

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