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.

  • Redwire to provide 3D printing for Blue Origin’s Orbital Reef station

    Blue Origin and Sierra Space revealed their plans for Orbital Reef, a commercially developed, owned, and operated space station to be built in low Earth orbit. The station will open the next chapter of human space exploration and development by facilitating the growth of a vibrant ecosystem and business model…

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  • Materialise and Proponent transform aerospace supply chains with AM

    Materialise and Proponent have entered a partnership that will raise the profile of 3D printing in aerospace aftermarket supply chains. Proponent, headquartered in Brea, California, is the world’s leading independent distributor of aircraft parts. Materialise, headquartered in Leuven, Belgium is a global leader in 3D printing solutions. With the partnership,…

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  • 57,000 aerospace-certified components 3D printed in ULTEM

    FDM Digital Solutions has manufactutred over 57,000 aerospace-certified components using ULTEM 9085 materials on Stratasys extrusion 3D printers. “What we have found over the years is that the key to delivering quality printed flight-ready parts is to collaborate upfront with our customers to define the standards required,” Tony Flanagan, 3D…

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  • AMTC to explore the industrialization of AM for a new tomorrow

    Additive Manufacturing is changing the world. This disruptive, next-generation technology is helping to put more advanced rockets into space, revolutionizing design thinking for sustainability solutions and shaping jobs of the future. More than 60 speakers, including Boeing, Siemens, McKinsey, Audi, RWTH, and TUM are confirmed for this year’s leading global…

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  • Relativity places Terran 1 Stage 1 3D printed tank onto test stand

    Disrupting 60 years of aerospace, the fully 3D printed Terran 1 rocket represents the first phase of the company’s vision of radically simplifying its supply chain by fusing 3D printing, artificial intelligence, proprietary software, and autonomous robotics. After raising well over half a billion dollars and building some of the…

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  • Starburst Aerospace to develop new AM workflow with Morf3D’s ADMC

    Starburst Aerospace, a global aerospace accelerator, has committed to a technology development partnership with Morf3D, leveraging the California-based service provider’s new Applied Digital Manufacturing Center – ADMC – in Long Beach. Morf3D, a subsidiary of Nikon Corporation, is a leading metal AM company that specializes in optimization and engineering for…

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  • Rocket Lab wins $24m contract to develop Neutron rocket upper stage

    Rocket Lab, a developer and manufacturer of launch and space systems that integrate numerous 3D printed parts, has been awarded a $24.35 million contract with the U.S. Space Force Space Systems Command (SSC) for the development of the Neutron launch vehicle’s upper stage. The agreement signifies Rocket Lab’s commitment to…

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  • HexAM by Hexcel awarded long-term contract for Boeing 777X AM parts

    Hexcel Corporation (NYSE: HXL) has been awarded a multi-year contract to produce aerospace structures made with HexPEKK-100 for the Boeing 777X. The parts will be manufactured via the HexAM by Hexcel process at the company’s additive manufacturing site near Hartford, Connecticut. The Boeing 777X family of aircraft also uses the large…

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  • AAMS 2021 looks at aerospace AM in the face of global challenges

    On the 22nd and 23rd of September, the Aerospace Additive Manufacturing Summit – AAMS 2021, an international business summit entirely dedicated to additive manufacturing in the aerospace industry, will hold its third edition. Several key players in this segment will come together, during two days, at the MEETT center in…

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  • Lockheed Martin taps MakerBot for its AI-Assisted lunar rover for NASA

    Lockheed Martin has extended its use of MakerBot 3D printers to produce parts and designs for its upcoming space projects. MakerBot 3D printers have been in use for about five years and have provided easily accessible 3D printing for a host of projects for Lockheed Martin’s team of engineers. Lockheed…

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