3D Printing in the Aerospace Industry

Aircraft production is increasing its reliability on 3D printing for larger volumes of units. 3D printing is faster and better equipped to build complex parts, making it more cost effective to be used for interior components on an aircraft. 

Designing and manufacturing for aircraft interiors hinges on weight reduction. To reduce weight, cutting down on material and additives is key. 3D printing allows for production of continuous units, meaning all necessary features are consolidated into one part, reducing material usage, additional hardware and attachment features, and overall weight.

3D printing began factoring into the production of interior aircraft components over a decade ago. Air ducts, wall panels, and seat framework have all benefited from the ability to create complex geometries and organic shapes for reduced weight with 3D printing. As more airlines seek to add seats or increase passenger space, 3D printing offers a way to simplify parts and thin down panels, overhead compartments and seat components. In addition, When used to produce select lightweight, higher-durability jet engine parts, these processes deliver a perfect trifecta of simplified design, reduced cost and shortened lead times.

The aviation industry is an excellent way for these parts to prove their capabilities, given the stringent certifications and demanding safety approvals. If 3D-printed components meet federal aviation standards, the relevance of additive manufacturing in other highly demanding environments will also increase.

By producing parts directly from the CAD data, the slicing software will aid in removing tooling restraints. The result is an overall better performance from fewer parts and prototypes. The impact of parts consolidation will continue to increase maximum part sizes and build rates that additive manufacturing is currently capable of. For example, the FX20 is the largest format 3D printer Markforged has ever created.

3D Printing for Aerospace with Markforged

Miller 3D Partner, Markforged is helping aerospace industry engineers to reimagine the way aerospace parts are produced. With new and innovative technology, engineers are printing on-demand MRO and spare parts for commercial aviation, Urban Air Mobility, and NASA, just to name a few applications. As a result, aerospace industry leaders are improving responsiveness to rapidly shifting supply chains and labor availability with the shifts into Additive Manufacturing. One of the main advantages to additive manufacturing aerospace parts is the decrease in lead times. 

In addition to the 3D printing machines and software that produce custom parts, Markforged has also introduced new materials specifically for the requirements of aerospace. For example, most parts printed with FR-A materials establish lot-level traceability and pass the test suite necessary for qualification under 14 CFR 25.853. In addition, Onyx FR-A and Carbon Fiber FR-A as printed on the Markforged X7 are undergoing qualification through the NCAMP process.

The latest material from Markforged suitable for 3D printing aircraft parts is ULTEM™ 9085 Filament. This high temperature printing polymer is available on the FX20 large format 3D printer. The durable thermoplastic exhibits excellent flame, smoke, and toxicity characteristics. For example, it’s ideal for Aircraft interior paneling, brackets, handles, and knobs. 

In addition, our contract 3D printing services are ideal for prototyping aerospace application parts before purchasing the technolog

Spools of CF-FR and Onyx-FR-A
3D Printer aircraft Center Console cup holder in aircraft in cock pit

The Future of Additive Manufacturing in the Aerospace Industry

The U.S. and Canada are witnessing an increasing adoption of 3D printing technologies in the aerospace industry. As a result, the North American region as a whole is projected to be the largest market for aerospace 3D printing. The increased demand for lightweight aircraft components integrates perfectly with the 3D printing industry as a whole in general. The introduction of Onyx FR-A and Carbon Fiber FR-A is only the beginning of where these applications are headed. We are expecting to see more applications for additive manufacturing because these parts are high quality, and the engineers can make changes quickly in accordance to customer requests. The accuracy, profitability, and inspection processes of 3D printing continues to increase with artificial intelligence, new printers, and improved software. As a result, it makes sense for more engineering and contract manufacturing companies to begin integrating the technology into their aerospace industry workflows.

Underneath view of a plane