I took an overnight flight recently from Colorado to the East Coast. In the wee hours, the lights were dimmed and most of the passengers slept; however, in all my growing excitement to see family and friends, I was wide awake and found myself looking around the quiet cabin for the possibility of 3D printed parts. You have probably noticed that many things have changed on planes these days due to designs meant to fit more passengers in, allow for easier replacement parts, and as always—cut down on the bottom line. I wondered about the nozzles for air conditioning and lighting, the pull-down trays, my arm-rest—not to mention all the larger components we can’t really see.
The aerospace industry is certainly one known for innovation, and today, aircraft such as the Dassault Falcon are used to experiment with the ways pilots will give flight commands in the future, how displays will be designed, and importantly—how warning systems will function. Reducing stress for pilots so that they can make better decisions under pressure is key, along with giving them better visibility in the dark or inclement weather. Augmented reality and synthetic vision is sure to become much more available to pilots in the future, along with voice control, also increasing pilot efficiency. There is even the potential for saying goodbye to the runway altogether with vertical take-off and landing vehicles (VTOL), a technology that helicopters are currently more adept at using.
Along with a variety of futuristic software programs comes spectacular 3D vision tools and 3D printing for production. Already being developed are innovations like 3D printed cabin parts, military replacement components, and fuselage components—just to name a few when it comes to smaller planes and larger jets. Aerospace companies around the world are enjoying the many benefits of 3D design and 3D printing, and as the trend continues, companies like Honeywell are also testing a wide range of 3D printed parts. While such parts are usually created at a fraction of the price of those made with more conventional technology and materials, the focus is also on safety, efficiency, and greater durability. These companies are also able to cut down manufacturing time significantly—a big plus!
Currently, Honeywell is engaged in industrial 3D printing, making many new parts in metal such as titanium and nickel. This allows for enormous strength in components (some of which could not have been made without the emergence of 3D printing), as well as substantially lighter weight—always an important feature in flying.
“If we can print parts rapidly instead of waiting months to order them and receive them, that’s where we are going to make the biggest bang for the buck,” said engineering fellow Don Godfrey.
With 3D printing, engineers can also streamline designs and eliminate unnecessary complexities, such as the Honeywell thermal anti-ice valve:
“We removed 52 parts,” said Godfrey. “A lot of those parts were nuts, bolts, washers, o-rings. But an o-ring is never going to leak if it’s not there.”
Along with the aerospace industry, many other large corporations are incorporating 3D printing into their manufacturing processes—from automotive to construction to medical. The DIY community has also been transformed as designers around the world enjoy working with a continually new supply of materials as well as software and hardware, without wasting time or money on third parties who were previously much more in control of manufacturing for everyone.
What do you think of this news? Let us know your thoughts! Join the discussion of this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below.[Source: CNET / Images: Lexy Savvides/CNET]