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.

  • SpaceX is looking to increase AM for engine production at all sites

    In the wake of recent commercial space flight successes, either with sub-orbital human flights or orbital satellite launches, SpaceX is looking to significantly and further expand its additive manufacturing activities. The company is specifically looking for an Additive Manufacturing manager, a professional figure that will manage the engineering development and…

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  • Sintavia develops proprietary copper printing technology

    Sintavia, a designer and 3D printer of a new generation of flight and launch components, has developed proprietary printing technology for GRCop-42, the preferred copper alloy used by NASA and private space flight companies for rocket thrust chamber assemblies. The new technology, which is a combination of a proprietary parameter…

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  • Blue Origin’s New Shepard just took 4 more humans (briefly) to space

    Blue Origin‘s New Shepard flew its first astronaut crew to space, including Amazon founder (and Blue Origin owner) Jeff Bezos. He was aboard the suborbital rocket together with Oliver Daemen, the first paying customer to fly onboard, and Wally Funk. At 18-years-old and 82-years-young, Oliver Daemen and Wally Funk represent…

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  • Romar Engineering awarded $5.8M grant to boost Australia’s aerospace

    Romar Engineering’s expanding capability in advanced manufacturing for the aerospace sector has been recognized with a $5.8M MMI grant to grow its Australian-designed fluid and motion control solutions. The winning grant awarded to Romar Engineering is the largest of four allocated to manufacturers working in the aerospace sector under round…

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  • WAZP to develop 3D printed parts for GUARD drug interdiction drones

    SME’s WAZP, A-techSYN, and VRAI have joined forces with academic partners The Tyndall National Institute, University of Limerick (UL), and University College Dublin (UCD) in the Drug Interdiction Using Smart Drones (GUARD) Project. The GUARD project aims to produce advanced autonomous drones. These drones will be developed to aid the…

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  • Watch Unity 22, Virgin Galactic’s first fully crewed spaceflight

    Virgin Galactic Holdings, a vertically integrated aerospace and space travel company, is getting ready for the next rocket-powered test flight of its SpaceShipTwo Unity, Unity 22, which is scheduled for July 11th, pending weather and technical checks. It will be the first with a full astronaut crew, including the company’s…

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  • SPEE3D’s metal 3D printing reaches for the stars with SPAC3D project

    SPEE3D’s high-speed technology is set to revolutionize the space Industry with a low-cost solution to mass-produce metal 3D printed rocket engines in Australia. SPEE3D will receive $1.25 million in funding from the Federal Government’s MMI ‘Space’ Translation Stream grant, with an additional $312,000 in funding from the Northern Territory Government…

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  • EUTELSAT QUANTUM satellite with 3D printed parts shipped to launch site

    The Airbus-built EUTELSAT QUANTUM satellite has been shipped from the Airbus Defence and Space facilities in Toulouse to Kourou, French Guiana, ready for its launch at the end of July on an Ariane 5. The 3.5 tonnes (at launch) satellite, which is designed for a 15 years lifetime, features titanium…

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  • Northrop Grumman bets on PBF 3D printed ESD PEKK for space

    In a recent publication on the company’s official website, Northrop Grumman engineers focused on the benefits of PBF 3D printed ESD PEKK materials for aerospace applications. The evolution of additive manufacturing has opened a new door for advanced materials. One such additive advantage comes from electrostatic dissipative PolyEtherKetoneKetone (ESD PEKK),…

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  • Astra becomes the first space launch company to trade on Nasdaq

    From Alaska to SPAC(e): Astra Space, the fastest privately-funded US company in history to reach space, and Holicity, Inc., a publicly traded special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), completed their previously announced transaction to take Astra public. “Becoming a public company is an important milestone in our mission to improve life…

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