First Certified 3D Printed Aircraft Interior Component of the MENA Region is Ready to Fly

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Global Manufacturing and Industrialisation Summit [Image: Abdul Rahman / Gulf News]

Just two months ago, Siemens AG and Strata Manufacturing PJSC signed a partnership with Etihad Airways, the second largest airline in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), to expand 3D printing technology in the region of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and help airlines to improve their designs. The pilot project of the collaborative effort began with developing and producing 3D printed aircraft interior components, for Etihad’s aircraft cabins. This week, at the Global Manufacturing and Industrialisation Summit in Abu Dhabi, the region’s first certified aircraft interior part manufactured through 3D printing technology was revealed.

The 3D printed replacement part is a plastic monitor frame, and will surround the media screens on Etihad Airways planes.

“We’re extremely proud to announce the successful completion of our pilot project – this is a key step towards our goal of deploying 3D printing technology on live applications. This technology has the potential to revolutionize the aerospace industry through innovation, while also developing local knowledge and skills,” said Badr Al-Olama, CEO of Strata and head of the Global Manufacturing and Industrialization Committee.

H.E. Mattar Mohammed Al Tayer of RTA Dubai examines the 3D printed aircraft part at GMI Summit [Photo: Strata Manufacturing via Twitter]

The four-day summit, which is backed by the United Nations and jointly organized by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the UAE Ministry of Economy, is the first global gathering for the manufacturing community as a whole, and over 1,200 world leaders, policymakers, and executives are attending. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, Ruler of Dubai, and leader of Dubai’s 3D printing charge, was also in attendance. Speakers have noted how significant industrial manufacturing is to the growing economy in the UAE, and the Minister of Economy, Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansouri, said that the manufacturing sector will contribute 25% towards the country’s GDP by 2025.

Designing and manufacturing aircraft parts is a complex process, and the parts have to go through a tough certification process to be approved for use. But Etihad Airways Engineering realized the excellent potential that 3D printing could provide to the aviation sector: airlines can implement their own design improvements, and complex, and even discontinued, parts, can be produced much faster.

Once GCAA, the UAE aviation authority, approved the process, the work on this landmark aircraft component pilot project between Strata, Siemens, and Etihad was divided pretty evenly. Etihad Airways Engineering designed the part and was responsible for certifying its use in aviation, while Siemens, with its recently updated product lifecycle management program, consulted on the materials selection, testing, and manufacturing process development. Strata, supported by local partners D2M and VPS, 3D printed the part in their Al Ain factory.

“This project showcases our joint capabilities in the UAE to design, certify and manufacture parts using the latest technologies,” said Jeff Wilkinson, CEO, Etihad Airways Engineering. “Its importance cannot be understated, as 3D printing enables high flexibility during design and prototyping and short lead times during production. It opens new possibilities to the industry and inspires our talented engineers to make their ideas become reality.”

The monitor frame was chosen for the project due to its appearance requirements and complexity, and can immediately start being used on Etihad Airways aircraft. Production time for the part has been reduced, because it can be manufactured on demand with no necessary tool designing and building; this also means that any design updates can be virtually modeled and quickly 3D printed on existing equipment. Also, since it’s made in Abu Dhabi, shipping and inventory is eliminated.

Assem Khalaili, Executive Vice President, Industry Customer Services at Siemens Middle East, said, “This project is an excellent example of what can be achieved by combining expertise from the right global and local partners. Together we have demonstrated the industrialization of 3D printing technology in the region, paving the way for its use across a range of sectors. We believe it will play a key role in strengthening local manufacturing in the Middle East, and we’re looking forward to further driving the development of digitalized industry in the region.”

Now that the pilot project is complete, Strata, which manufactures components for big-name airlines like Airbus and Boeing, will continue exploring the use of 3D printing technology, with metallic and non-metallic materials, in multiple aerostructure applications, such as consumables, tooling, and fixtures. It will also continue to work with Siemens, and research the best ways to develop a three-year joint roadmap, which will include skill development and training for UAE citizens, to continue industrializing 3D printing technology in the MENA region. Discuss in the 3D Printed Aircraft Part forum at 3DPB.com.

[Source/Images: Siemens Middle East]

 

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