A landmark pilot project between technological and manufacturing software giant Siemens, Etihad Airways Engineering and UAE based AM service Strata has successfully developed the first aircraft interior part to be designed, certified and manufactured with 3D printing technology in the Middle East. The news comes just a few weeks after Etihad became the first airline to design, certify and fly 3D printed parts under the European Agency.
The part – a plastic frame which surrounds media screens on Etihad Airways aircraft – can be manufactured on demand, cutting production time and eliminating the need for shipping or a locally-stored inventory. The additive manufacturing technology (known as 3D printing) also removes the requirement to design and build tooling for the manufacturing process, allowing future design updates to be modeled virtually and printed swiftly using existing equipment. The monitor frame was selected for the pilot project because of its complexity and appearance requirements. The 3D-printed parts can be used in Etihad Airways aircraft immediately.
“This project showcases our joint capabilities in the UAE to design, certify and manufacture parts using the latest technologies. Its importance cannot be understated, as 3D printing enables high flexibility during design and prototyping and short lead times during production. It opens new possibilities to the industry and inspires our talented engineers to make their ideas become reality.” Jeff Wilkinson, CEO, Etihad Airways Engineering.
Etihad Airways Engineering has identified great potential for 3D printing technology in aviation to enable faster production of complex and discontinued parts, and to allow design improvements by airlines. The design and manufacture of aircraft parts is complex, requiring a stringent certification process to ensure airworthiness and approval for use.
“We’re extremely proud to announce the successful completion of our pilot project – this is a key step towards our goal of deploying 3D printing technology on live applications,” said Badr Al-Olama, CEO of Strata and head of the Global Manufacturing and Industrialization Committee. “This technology has the potential to revolutionize the aerospace industry through innovation, while also developing local knowledge and skills.”
During the project Siemens used its global expertise in industrial 3D printing to consult on the selection of materials, testing and the development of the manufacturing processes. Etihad Airways Engineering was responsible for the part’s design and its certification for use in aviation. Strata 3D-printed the part in their Al Ain factory, supported by local partners VPS and D2M. The UAE aviation authority GCAA approved the entire process.
“This project is an excellent example of what can be achieved by combining expertise from the right global and local partners,” said Assem Khalaili, Executive Vice President, Industry Customer Services at Siemens Middle East. “Together we have demonstrated the industrialization of 3D printing technology in the region, paving the way for its use across a range of sectors. We believe it will play a key role in strengthening local manufacturing in the Middle East, and we’re looking forward to further driving the development of digitalized industry in the region.”
With the successful completion of the pilot project, Siemens and Strata intend to investigate the development of a three-year joint roadmap for the further industrialization of 3D printing in the UAE, Middle East and North Africa. The roadmap is to include training and skill development for UAE citizens.
Strata will also continue to explore 3D printing technology in a range of applications in aerostructures including tooling, fixtures and consumables, using both metallic and non-metallic materials.
Siemens is able to integrate the entire additive manufacturing process from end-to-end, with a portfolio including computer-aided design software, control, automation and drive systems and technology for the digital modeling of all processes. The company currently uses 3D printing to manufacture parts for industrial gas turbines and rail vehicles, making the design, production and delivery of parts faster and enabling rapid prototyping, manufacture and repair.