Airbus Expands Use of 3D Printing

20th February 2014

Airbus is expanding use of 3-D printing technology to manufacture parts for the company’s line of aircraft. Parts produced with this method are beginning to feature on a range of the company’s aircraft including the A350 XWB and the A300/A310 Family.

As part of their move towards 3D printing, Airbus has started to use printed metal parts in their A300 model family and also their newly released A350XWB. One of the biggest reasons the company has become interested in the technology is its ability to produce lighter, stronger components at a potential cost savings.


Airbus bracket created using 3D printing


“We are on the cusp of a step-change in weight reduction and efficiency – producing aircraft parts which weight 30 to 55 percent less, while reducing raw material used by 90 percent,” says Peter Sander of Airbus. “This game-changing technology also decreases total energy used in production by up to 90 percent compared to traditional methods.”

Airbus is also working toward spare part solutions with this technology, which is said to be ideal for producing cost-effective, out-of-production aircraft spare parts on demand. This month, the first “printed” component – a small plastic crew seat panel – flew on an Airbus customer jetliner, an A310 operated by Canada’s Air Transat.

Sander said the lead time for such a part can be as little as one day, if the component is based on an existing design, while redesigned parts can be produced in less than two weeks.

“The aircraft of the future will have a ‘bionic’ fuselage, composed of complex parts printed using additive layer manufacturing,” Sander argues. “This dream will come true.”