Additive Manufacturing and Aerospace: Pushing Boundaries and Exploring New Frontiers Together
Additive manufacturing, more commonly known as 3D printing, has been at the forefront of innovation in the manufacturing space for decades. Limited only by the technology available, recent advances have allowed additive manufacturing to enter the aerospace industry, providing a boon of resources and advantages to help them continue pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.
The aerospace industry has a long history of being an early adopter, trailblazer and innovator, setting standards and practices across most industries, with technological advances becoming commonplace in nearly every aspect of modern life.
More Than Prototypes
In the aerospace industry, additive manufacturing has become a tool for designing, testing, tooling and production. It not only offers aircraft makers greater design freedom, but helps them cut costs, reduce weight and shorten the time to market.
While a mainstay of industrial additive manufacturing has been the creation of prototypes for testing and quality assurance, aerospace innovators are now embracing additive manufacturing beyond prototyping to pursue new applications of the technology. Some leading aerospace manufacturers are already using this technology to fabricate jigs and fixtures, production tooling and end-use parts for lightweight wing assemblies.
Additive manufacturing with metal powders takes 3D printing from a design tool to practical application. It produces exceptionally high-performance parts from aluminum, titanium, steel, and nickel alloys with complex geometries for mission critical parts.
Increasing Safety, Driving Down Cost
Aerospace manufacturers have the unique challenge of trying to drive cost and weight down, while adhering to stringent FAA regulatory and compliance standards. For aerospace, the availability of lightweight, flame and chemical resistant 3D printing material is key to broader applications and innovation. Many manufacturing tools can be created with additive manufacturing faster and less expensively, than with traditional methods. Molds, templates, jigs and fixtures and surrogates can be ready for use in hours, not weeks.
Staying Ahead of Production Lines
In addition to prototypes and tooling, modern 3D printing technology can produce durable, stable end-use parts — bypassing the production line altogether.
Disrupting the Supply Chain
Additive manufacturing provides the opportunity to consolidate components which translates to fewer suppliers, consolidating key parts of the supply chain. Additive manufacturing keeps production moving without having to wait for shipment. It increases self-sufficiency, allowing companies to bypass some suppliers altogether. Utilizing additive manufacturing as a core aspect of the manufacturing or assembly processes eliminates lengthy wait times for spare parts or mold development and delivery, while reducing shipping costs and inventory expenses.
Whether used in prototyping, tooling or short run manufacturing, additive manufacturing is helping aerospace manufacturers become more cost effective, more agile and more efficient in bringing new products to market while remaining at the forefront of innovation.
Is Additive Manufacturing right for you?
The experts at Hartwig can help you explore how additive manufacturing can help your business. We can help you leverage your existing equipment to perform these operations or help you find the right technology to get started. Contact us today to learn more about our services.
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