3D printing has already begun making an uproar for its exceptional benefits. Whether it’s swift marketing, decreasing manufacturing costs or delivering products superior to the competitors, metal 3D printing has given companies an edge on what it takes to rule over.
Like other industries, the aerospace and defense industry (A&D) is drastically adopting 3D printing and rapid prototyping technologies to develop aircraft parts to trim manufacturing outlays. Boeing, one of the front-runners in the A&D industry, has already been running toward progressing using metal 3D printing technology by printing over 22,000 parts the previous year.
With intrinsically tied to development, metal 3D printing is what the future holds. In this blog, you will explore the future prospects of metal 3D printing, specifically in the A&D industry, which is expected to grow unceasingly over time.
How Does Metal 3D Printing Work?
The primary fabrication process for metal additive manufacturing starts with filling the build chamber with an inert gas such as argon to minimise metal powder’s oxidation, followed by heating the gas to the optimum build temperature.
Next, a thin layer of metal powder is spread over the build platform, and the cross-section of the component is scanned using a high-power laser which melts the metal particles, forming the next layer. This happens until the entire model area is reviewed and the part solidifies.
Afterwards, the build platform shifts downwards by one layer thickness and the recoater extends another thin layer of metal powder, repeating the process until the whole part is completed.
Upon finishing the build process, the parts are compressed in the metal powder until the bin reaches room temperature, after which the excess powder is removed manually. Then the constituents are detached from the build plate through cutting, machining or wire EDM and ready for use or processing.
While the A&D industry is mainly recognised for its unwavering innovation, adding metal 3D printing technology further expands industrial horizons, leading aerospace to reach the pinnacle of discoveries.
For instance, using metal 3D printing in the A&D manufacturing industry speeds up the creation of new tooling without investing hefty amounts. Many European companies have even started using 3D printing in prototyping and casting, saving costs by nearly 40%.
The Future Of Metal 3D Printing In Aerospace
Understanding where the aerospace industry will head using metal 3D printing can give companies a competitive edge to run the extra mile and be at the top over their opponents. Here is what companies are working on for the successful infusion of additive manufacturing in aerospace.
Airplane Wing Printing
With minimal progressions already being made, companies like Boeing look forward to printing an entire aeroplane wing using metal 3D printing. Another aspect they are optimistic about is introducing titanium metal to unleash new opportunities to manufacture larger and more important aerospace parts.
Developing Testing Prototypes
Metal 3D printing is also projected to be beneficial in developing testing prototypes to scrutinise clearances, angles and tolerances without spending on CNC machining.
Metal 3D Printing To Develop UAVs
BAE Systems has already invested ₤117m in research and development to test whether integrating 3D printing to develop UAVs can bring fruitful outcomes in performing rescue operations when an aircraft senses any dreadful situation in the air.
Zero Gravity Tests For Printing Airplane Tools
In collaboration with NASA, Made in Space is performing zero gravity tests to experiment with 3D printing on the International Space Station, which will enable astronauts to print tools and parts in future.
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