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The United Arab Emirates’ Etihad Airways has long been serious about incorporating 3D printing into its airplanes, particularly cabin components. Now Etihad Airways Engineering, the largest aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services provided in the Middle East, has partnered with 3D printer manufacturer EOS to expand local capabilities for 3D printing in the aviation field.

The initial phase of the collaboration will use EOS technology and involve the qualification of machines, processes and materials in accordance with aviation regulatory requirements.

“Etihad constantly invests in new technology and has identified additive manufacturing as a key technology for aviation interior parts, as well as applications beyond aerospace in the future,” said Bernhard Randerath, Vice President Design, Engineering and Innovation at Etihad Airways Engineering. “The technology is a key enabler when it comes to design and innovation in our industry. Etihad is proud to work towards a vision of a 3D-printed cabin interior.”

Once the initial steps have been completed, Etihad Airways Engineering will certify the additive manufacturing process and further develop additive manufacturing capabilities based on the technology. Along with EOS, the company will also work to develop, test and qualify new polymer materials. Over the long term, Etihad plans to roll out 3D printing among its customers and within its broader ecosystem.

“Etihad is providing industry-leading aircraft maintenance and engineering solutions,” said Markus Glasser, Senior Vice President Export Region at EOS. “As such we share the same mindset as both of our companies are committed to high quality solutions and constant technology innovation. We are honored to support our partner on this innovation journey, as such bringing the production of aircraft interior parts to the next level.”

The partnership will enable Etihad Airways Engineering to produce 3D printed aircraft parts at its facility in Abu Dhabi. After a structured selection process, cabin interior parts will be 3D printed, which offers a number of benefits. 3D printing allows for lightweight design, and when it comes to airplanes, the more lightweight components can be included, the better. Any reduction in weight allows for better fuel efficiency, saving money as well as having a positive impact on the environment. 3D printing also enables shorter lead times as well as the opportunity for customization.

As 3D printing becomes more and more common in the aerospace industry, many people think more of high-strength metal components being used in engines, for example, and less about the inside of the cabin itself. But the interior cabin of the airplane is just as full of opportunities for using 3D printing, if not more so, and Etihad has seized on those opportunities in particular. When it comes to making an aircraft more lightweight, or saving money and time, no part is too small to revamp using 3D printing.

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