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.

  • Conductive PEEK 3D printed parts set for Moon touch down

    The European Space Agency (ESA) announced on January 12th that the very first European technology to make contact with the surface of the Moon will include 3D prints produced by Orion Additive Manufacturing (Orion AM), for the Rashid rover. These will also be the first 3D printed parts on the…

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  • NASA validates first full-scale 3D printed rotating detonation rocket engine (RDRE) for deep space missions.

    NASA validates 3D printed rocket engine for deep space missions

    A team of propulsion development engineers at NASA have developed and tested NASA’s first full-scale rotating detonation rocket engine (RDRE) – an advanced rocket engine design that could significantly change how future propulsion systems are built. The RDRE differs from a traditional rocket engine by generating thrust using a supersonic…

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  • There’s a new 3D printed rocket launching to orbit from US soil

    Rocket Lab’s 33rd Electron mission overall is also the first launched from U.S. soil, introducing a new responsive launch capability to the nation. Rocket Lab USA, Inc. (Nasdaq: RKLB), a leading launch and space systems company, successfully its first mission from Virginia. The Electron rocket was made possible by and…

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  • Northrop Grumman is looking to SCRAM for hypersonic supremacy

    SCRAM is the keyword in Northrop Grumman’s quest toward hypersonic superiority. As nations around the world race for hypersonic supremacy, for hypersonic missiles (in what is still a relatively mild arms race) as well as for any future hypersonic vehicle, Northrop Grumman is perfecting SCRAM C/C, Northrop Grumman is looking…

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  • ISS Research Lab Program at the Valley Christian High School triggers 3D printing experiments on capillary action in microgravity.

    ISS conducts 3D printing experiments on capillary action in microgravity

    Since the year 2000, astronauts at the International Space Station (ISS) have used the special conditions of space, such as the presence of permanent microgravity, for experiments that provide revolutionary results. One of the experiments that is expected to be started on the ISS in 2023 is connected to capillary…

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  • Chromatic 3D Materials passes 14 CFR vertical burn tests and demonstrating compliance with anti-flammability aviation standards.

    Chromatic 3D Materials qualifies for airworthiness

    Chromatic 3D Materials, a 3D printing materials and technology provider, has passed 14 CFR vertical burn tests – which demonstrate compliance with anti-flammability standards for airworthiness. Chromatic’s durable, abrasion-resistant thermoset polyurethanes are suitable for a wide variety of airline parts, including elastomeric components used in stowage compartments and decorative panels,…

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  • BEAMIT signs deal with Leonardo Aircraft for AM part production

    Partly funded and owned by steel giant Sandvick, BEAMIT – especially after the acquisition of 3T’s metal AM business in the UK –  is the largest metal AM service provider in the world according to the Metal AM market report published by 3dpbm in 2021. A new deal with Leonardo…

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  • ArianeGroup extends partnership with GKN Aerospace for the next phase of Ariane 6 turbines and Vulcain nozzles.

    ArianeGroup extends partnership with GKN Aerospace

    GKN Aerospace has signed a contract with ArianeGroup to supply the next phase of Ariane 6 turbines and Vulcain nozzles. The contract includes the manufacturing and supply of units for the next 14 Ariane 6 launchers – to be produced from now until 2025, and covers the industrialization period of…

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  • MMB VOLUM-e adds EOS M400-4 laser 3D printer

    MMB VOLUM-e recently installed a new EOS M400-4 laser metal 3D printer after receiving funding from the Ministry of the Economy as part of “MooV-e 4.0”. The funding initiative follows the call for projects “Recovery plan for the Aeronautics industry” aimed at the strengthening of the industrial sector through a…

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  • Team Tempest to 3D print up to 30% of 6th-gen jet fighter

    The UK industry is set to play a key role in the new Global Combat Air Programme, delivering the next phase of the Tempest combat air fighter jet development, the first 6th gen jet fighter, scheduled to be operational by the 2030s. The UK’s sovereign industry partners, under Team Tempest,…

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