Montreal - Air travel will become more affordable and more environmentally friendly with 3D printing technology in the near future. The airplanes of American, Boeing, and European Airbus already have a few components produced with 3D printing.
Although 3D printing technology becomes more and more common in many industries, it has still relatively a small share in the aviation industry. In the future, therefore, Boeing and Airbus, the two major manufacturers plan to increase the number of such parts in the production of passenger planes.
The first airplane containing a 3D-printed component took off in 2014. It was an Airbus A350 with a small 3D-printed titanium part located under the pylon connecting jet engines to the wings of the airplane.
Since then, the number of such parts has steadily increased. For instance, Boeing already has 60,000 3D-printed parts used in its aircraft, which is still relatively a small number, considering that a Boeing 747 consists of six million parts.
Both manufacturers, however, agree that 3D printing technology provides them with entirely new benefits and opportunities, such as manufacturing complex components that would not be possible with conventional production methods. It also offers great potential to reduce the cost and weight of aircraft structures.
The lower weight means lower fuel consumption, which makes the commercial flights more environmentally friendly and more affordable for passengers.
Every fifteen years, the size of the global air fleet double and the carbon footprint left by the airlines double as well. This is not sustainable. 3D-printing technology can lower the weight of an aircraft by 55% on average.
Over the next two decades, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) expects the number of airline passengers will reach 8.2 billion a year. Therefore, if today's big players want to remain at the forefront of the market, they have to invest more in 3D printing technology.
Written by: the Editorial Board for Airliner Watch.