3D printing has been up in the air for a while now. Companies like Airbus have been utilizing the technology to create numerous components for their aircraft; the 3D printed parts used by Airbus, in fact, number in the thousands. Earlier this year, the first FAA-approved structural titanium aircraft component was produced, signaling 3D printing’s arrival as a core technology for the production of aircraft. On the interior side of things, the first certified 3D printed interior aircraft component in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region was recently created for Etihad Airways, the second largest airline in the United Arab Emirates.
The largest airline in the UAE is Emirates, and it has no plans to fall behind on the 3D printing front. This week, the airline announced that it would be using 3D printing to produce aircraft cabin components including video monitoring shrouds and air vent grills. The latter have already been certified and installed for onboard trials on Emirates aircraft.
Emirates is working with 3D Systems to produce the video monitoring shrouds using SLS technology and 3D Systems’ new DuraForm ProX FR1200 Nylon material, which meets flame retardancy thresholds required by the aerospace industry for interior cabin parts, as well as AITM Smoke Density and Toxicity Requirements. According to 3D Systems, the material has excellent surface quality and is easy to post-process. 3D Systems showcased the material, among other 3D printing solutions, this week at the Dubai Air Show.
“3D Systems has a long history in the Aerospace and Defense industry, and many successful collaborations with our customers,” said Bryan Hodgson, advanced aerospace applications, 3D Systems. “At this event, we’re very excited to be showcasing several that deliver productivity, repeatability, durability, and effective total cost of operation for our customers.”
Emirates worked with European company UUDS to develop and 3D print the air vent grills, which were also created using SLS technology. The airline points to the strength and reduced weight of the 3D printed parts as reasons why they decided to turn to 3D printing technology. 3D printed video monitor shrouds weigh 9 to 13 percent less than their conventionally produced counterparts, which has the potential to result in greatly reduced fuel emissions and costs for Emirates. In addition, 3D printing allows the airline to produce parts as needed, eliminating the need for a large inventory of spare parts or for long waiting times for replacements.
“Over the last two years Emirates Engineering has been actively exploring 3D printing for aircraft cabin parts as it is a transformational technology that can be used to achieve an increase in efficiency and productivity,” said Ahmed Safa, Emirates Senior Vice President – Engineering Support Services. “We worked with a number of suppliers to develop prototypes of 3D printed cabin parts but ultimately decided on working with 3D Systems and UUDS. The technology we use has the potential to deliver cabin parts with reduced weight without compromising on structural integrity or cosmetic appeal.”
Emirates has plans to 3D print additional aircraft cabin components in the future, but will first evaluate the performance of the video monitor shrouds and air vent grills before going forward with other parts.
Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below.[Sources: Arabian Business / 3D Systems]