Additive manufacturing is not only revolutionizing the way industries are manufacturing their products, but it is also opening new avenues of possibility in what can be created and what solutions can be innovated. The aerospace sector is one industry, in particular, that is benefiting from the advances being made in additive manufacturing.
The Rise in Additive Manufacturing:
Since the world’s first-ever 3D printer was created by Chuck Hull in 1983, 3D printing, or additive manufacturing as it has become known, has evolved and found its way into several industries. It has moved past its initial uses as a prototyping tool and has entered the mainstream as a legitimate and innovative tool for creating reliable and safe products in both large and small quantities.
Additive manufacturing is used in a vast array of industries, from automotive, medical, and robotics, to manufacturing, education, and, aerospace.
Additive Manufacturing in the Aerospace:
The process of additive manufacturing is allowing aerospace companies to efficiently design aircraft and its components, as well as the possibility of solving the industry’s challenges in new innovative ways. Additive manufacturing is changing the way engineers consider the construction of aircraft parts, such as its engines, landing gear, fuselages, and many other components from large to tiny.
It is predicted that 3D printers will be used to create products across the field of aerospace, from commercial aircraft to NASA satellites. Many big names in the industry have already adopted the technology and have made significant strides forward with the technology. GE has used it to help create jet engines, while Lockheed Martin has added it to its processes to build components for spacecraft, beginning with small brackets and working their way up to bigger, more critical components.
Boeing has recently taken off with a 3D-printed turbine, and Aurora Flight Sciences have utilized the method in producing unmanned aerial vehicles.
3D-Printed Parts in Deep Space:
Companies involved in producing spacecraft are also adopting the technology. Lockheed Martin has recently used additive manufacturing to create two 3D-printed domes for a high-pressure tank used for carrying fuel on orbiting satellites. The domes were part of a multi-year project to develop a fleet of satellite buses.
Lockheed Martin has stated that they will continue to explore the use of 3D-printed parts in the production of lower-cost satellites. 3D-printed plastics could play a significant part in the future.
Finally, NASA has also incorporated 3D-printed parts into their spacecraft. Also produced by Lockheed Martin, NASA’s Juno spacecraft, which launched in 2016, included 3D-printed support brackets. It is believed that this will be the first of many components to be 3D printed for use in spacecraft destined for deep space missions.