Typically, when one thinks of additive manufacturing in the aerospace industry, it is of cutting edge metal AM technologies, used to fabricate complex parts. However, the vast number of applications within the aerospace field also calls for other AM processes, including FDM polymer capabilities. To fulfill this need, leading aircraft manufacturer Airbus has partnered with desktop 3D printing company Ultimaker.
Through the agreement, Netherlands-based Ultimaker will supply 3D printers, software and materials to Airbus’ European facilities. Airbus, for its part, will primarily leverage the FDM technology to manufacture tools, jigs and fixtures on-site and on-demand. Thanks to compatibility with various composite materials, Ultimaker’s 3D printing technology will also be used for producing certain lightweight design parts.
“We are very proud that Airbus selected Ultimaker,” commented Jos Burger, CEO at Ultimaker. “Strict rules regarding safety and certifications can make manufacturing and model-making workflows complicated, especially for engineers in the aerospace industry. I am glad that our certified solution and the possibility to print with composite materials, enables these engineers to keep innovating. The team at Airbus can fully rely on our dedicated global sales and partner network for full support.”
As a leading desktop 3D printer manufacturer, Ultimaker was well positioned for the Airbus partnership. According to the company it was chosen by the aircraft manufacturer because of its open source philosophy, as well as its technology’s reliable and good quality prints.
Ultimaker’s most recently released 3D printer, the S5, has the necessary qualifications (such as print speed, size and quality) to meet stringent aerospace requirements for non-flying parts. In addition to the 3D printer hardware, Ultimaker will also supply Ultimaker Cura software, materials, spare parts, services and other add-ons to Airbus’ European facilities. Eventually, the company aims to provide its desktop 3D printing technology and services around the globe.
Headquartered in the Netherlands, Airbus has been an eager adopter of additive manufacturing technologies, recognizing the design, lightweighting and on-demand benefits of it. Notably, the company has leveraged polymer 3D printing to redesign certain interior cabin components in collaboration with Materialise.
Most recently, the company announced a partnership with software company Dassault Systèmes through which it will implement collaborative 3D design, engineering, manufacturing, simulation and intelligence applications to digitally transform European aviation.