The aerospace industry has so fully embraced 3D printing that it will undoubtedly work to resolve any challenges.
If you fly in a plane in the next few years, you are statistically likely to be flying in one that contains 3D-printed parts, that is parts made via additive manufacturing (AM). While 3D printing equipment supplier Stratasys says 3D printing is great for interior parts, Airbus has announced plans to 3D-print 30 tonnes of metal parts every month by 2018. Some of them will be the brackets and structural parts that hold the plane together. In fact, aerospace manufacturers are working 3D-printed parts into just about every facet of the plane, including engine parts.
General Electric (GE), for example, is planning to mass-produce 25,000 LEAP engine nozzles with 3D printing. According to a ReportsnReports study, “The Global Aerospace 3D Printing Market to Grow at 55.85% CAGR during the period 2016–2020,” the primary driver of 3D printing in the aerospace market is the miniaturization of jet engines. The more widely additive manufacturing is used, however, the more issues come to light—ranging from the price of powders and resins to potential supply-chain weaknesses. Yet the aerospace industry has so fully embraced 3D printing that it will undoubtedly support the resolution of such problems.
An article in Machine Design explores many of the challenges that the aerospace industry faces in adopting 3D printing in structural applications.