Aerospace additive manufacturing has taken off. This industrial segment largely skipped the prototyping “era” and jumped right into researching AM for part production. 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, were crystal clear from the very beginning. This is even truer for objects that need to reach orbit, as the space vehicle manufacturing industry shapes up to become a giant industrial segment over the next ten to twenty years.

AM for aerospace has seen some serious growth in adoption over the past decade. Everyone expected this segment to continue on its booming growth path over the next twenty years, driven by factors such as economic growth, rapidly expanding middle classes in emerging economies, liberalization of trade, and increasing tourism. The COVID-19 crisis dramatically modified this scenario and it appears clear that, while general aviation will eventually return to growth, other ongoing trends – such as the sustainability of air travel and more efficient production workflows- have been significantly accelerated.

Today, even as general aviation experiences one of the biggest crises in its century-long history, new segments of aviation and aerospace are expected to experience growth. Electric flight, new supersonic flight, VTOL‘s, personal fight devices, commercial aviation, drones, defense and space travel are going to change the way we experience flying. All these segments of the aerospace industry share very heavy use of AM for rapid prototyping of new parts, tooling, or optimized final parts.

Manufacturing of civil aircraft – that is planes for commercial and general aviation – emerged as the first industry sector where 3D printing was an established manufacturing modality. Important new opportunities will 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 and directed energy deposition systems- 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.

  • Blue Origin prepares for NS-15 rehearsal mission for crewed flights

    Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin is a heavy user of AM. The company used AM for parts in the New Shepard, New Glenn and Blue Moon vehicles and has a large farm of Raise 3D and Stratasys industrial polymer extrusion systems (which it also used to produce medical PPE supplier…

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  • CAES and SWISSto12 launch strategic alliance for 3D printed RF technology

    CAES, a provider of RF technologies and related mission-critical electronic solutions, and SWISSto12, a provider of 3D printed technology for RF applications in the aerospace and defense industry, formed a strategic alliance to enable CAES to bring additive manufacturing and 3D printing technology to US customers. “We are proud to…

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  • Virgin Galactic unveils SpaceShip III VSS Imagine

    Virgin Galactic has unveiled Spaceship III VSS Imagine, the first in its class. The spaceship showcases Virgin Galactic’s innovation in design and astronaut experience. Imagine also demonstrates progress toward efficient design and production, as Virgin Galactic works to scale the business for the long-term. VSS Imagine will commence ground testing,…

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  • Safran and SLM Solutions evaluate SLM® for large nose landing gear

    In a joint project, Safran Landing Systems and SLM Solutions tested Selective Laser Melting to produce a component of a nose landing gear for a bizjet. A world-first for a part of this size. The joint objective of the project is to demonstrate the feasibility to produce a main fitting…

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  • BWT launches new website focusing on polymer AM for aerospace production

    As 2020 took a heavy toll on airlines and, inevitably, on aerospace manufacturers, many AM industry operators and media such as this one have highlighted and emphasized the need for aviation industry operators to accelerate the transition towards optimized, AM-based production models. This is not just a mantra to be…

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  • JUICE 3D printed parts will soon be on the way to Jupiter

    After a number of 3D printed parts landed on Mars, with the Perseverance Rover, another set of 11 metal 3D printed parts is now getting ready to catch a ride on ESA’s JUICE spacecraft, which will soon be on its way to Jupiter’s orbit. The JUICE 3D printed parts were…

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  • Roboze producing CubeSat magnetic field sensor holders

    Roboze, a manufacturer of industrial 3D printing technology for extreme end-user applications, was selected by the University of Colorado Boulder to optimize the design and 3D-printed components for a CubeSat project.  The college’s department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences is running the show. The CubeSat will spend at least six months…

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  • Primus Aerospace adopts VELO3D’s AM system for flight-critical apps

    Primus Aerospace—a leading contract manufacturing partner to aerospace, defense & space OEMs—has joined the VELO3D partner network with the purchase of a Ti6Al4V Sapphire metal additive manufacturing AM system. This is the first titanium-dedicated metal 3D printer from VELO3D that will be used solely for aerospace & defense applications. Primus…

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  • Wi3DP Next Gen Aerospace event

    Wi3DP Next Gen to host all-women virtual aerospace panel

    As a follow-up to its inaugural “Meet the Stars of 3D Printing” event in January, Women in 3D Printing Next Gen is preparing to host “Meet the Stars of 3D Printing: Aerospace Edition”, a virtual panel with women speakers representing leading aerospace companies and organizations, including Airbus, NASA, Raytheon and…

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  • L3Harris sends 3D printed electronic circuit to the ISS

    An L3Harris-designed Radio Frequency (RF) circuit and an array of various 3D printed material samples launched into space, bound for the International Space Station (ISS). The components, produced on a Dragonfly electronics 3D printer, are part of an experiment to assess the viability of 3D printed materials for RF applications.…

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