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.

  • Impact Innovations' CSAM process demonstrated for Ti-6Al-4V. The unique Cold Spray Additive Manufacturing uses N2 as propelling gas.

    Impact Innovations’ CSAM process demonstrated for Ti-6Al-4V

    Impact Innovations’ Cold Spray Additive Manufacturing technology (CSAM) is particularly attractive for the manufacturing of large parts, which are challenging for today’s powder bed fusion-based 3D printing processes, due to equipment size limitations, or protective atmosphere necessity – especially when depositing reactive materials such as Ti-6Al-4V. In CSAM, up to…

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  • AI SpaceFactory releases LINA 3D printed lunar outpost designs

    Space architecture and technology firm AI SpaceFactory presented its designs for LINA, the first 3D printed lunar outpost developed in collaboration with NASA Kennedy Space Center (KSC) engineers and planetary scientists. The design and testing of the LINA 3D printed lunar outpost are part of NASA’s 2020 Announcement of Collaboration…

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  • InssTek 3D prints multi-material FGM rocket nozzle

    InssTek, a metal DED technology developer based in Daejeon, South Korea, succeeded in manufacturing a multi-material Functionaly Grade Material, or FGM, rocket nozzle using different metals (aluminum-bronze alloy and stainless steel) in a single print run. This application proves that aerospace components used in extreme environments can be made using…

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  • SAGA Space Architects 3D print 7-meter-tall analog moon habitat. The habitat is the world's tallest 3D printed polymer structure.

    SAGA Space Architects 3D print 7-meter-tall analog moon habitat

    SAGA Space Architects, a Copenhagen-based design practice working on making space liveable for future space travelers, have 3D printed their new 7-meter-tall analog moon habitat – the world’s tallest 3D printed polymer structure. The shell has been topologically optimized, and the corrugated surface generated, to withstand the specific forces the…

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  • Axle Box 3D prints fire-fighting drones. Using Essentium's HSE 3D printing platform, to help first responders get to the heart of wildfires.

    Axle Box 3D prints fire-fighting drones

    Axle Box Innovations, a public safety technology developer, is using Essentium HSE 3D printing technology to support the development of US-made, 3D printed, fire-fighting drones – for management and protection. Essentium Inc. is a leading innovator of industrial additive manufacturing solutions. Engineers at Axle Box are leveraging the Essentium High-Speed…

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  • Continuous Composites selected by NASA's SBIR Program. To additively manufacture low CTE open isogrid composite structures for space.

    Continuous Composites selected by NASA’s SBIR Program

    Continuous Composites, an advanced composite 3D printing technology company, has been selected by NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program to additively manufacture low coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) open isogrid composite structures for space applications, using its patented Continuous Fiber 3D Printing (CF3D) technology. In space, the temperature of…

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  • Large stretch form tool created using AM technology. In an effort between Spirit AeroSystems, Inc., Thermwood Corporation, and Techmer PM.

    Large stretch form tool created using AM technology

    A collaborative effort between Spirit AeroSystems, Inc., Techmer PM, and Thermwood Corporation, has produced what is believed to be the largest stretch form tool ever to be 3D printed. At 6.5 feet wide by 15 feet long, the tool project has stretched the capabilities of additive technology in several directions. It…

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  • 3dpbm Pulse Podcast, Ep. 8: catapulting AM into space

    In this episode, we get to speak with one of the companies driving this new age of space across many segments. The Satellite Applications Catapult is one of a network of UK technology and innovation companies that aim to drive economic growth through the commercialization of research. The company’s aim…

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  • Titomic Kinetic Fusion to provide radiation shielding for Alpha satellites. Fleet Space's Alpha satellites are expected to launch in 2023.

    Titomic Kinetic Fusion to provide radiation shielding for Alpha satellites

    Titomic is set to create radiation shielding for Fleet Space’s first Alpha satellites in 2023. The South Australian company’s satellites are expected to be the world’s first fully additively manufactured satellites. Titomic will use its Titomic Kinetic Fusion technology, a cold spray additive manufacturing and coating process which allows deposition…

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  • Relativity’s fully 3D printed Terran 1 rocket to launch in summer 2022

    Aerospace 3D printing pioneer Relativity is scheduled for its first launch of Terran 1, called GLHF (Good Luck, Have Fun), from Launch Complex 16 (LC-16) in Cape Canaveral in summer 2022. This launch of Terran 1 is the first orbital attempt by Relativity and will not include a customer payload.…

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