The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently drafted an “Additive Manufacturing Strategic Road Map” for review. The draft was designed to provide recommendations and advising on the various additive manufacturing technologies for the industry’s legitimate businesses.

The Road Map highlights the regulatory information regarding the considerations of part and process certification, R&D of the technology, maintenance of parts and machines, and the rising demand for adequate additive manufacturing training and education.

The LEAP Fuel Nozzle. Photo by Michael Petch.

The LEAP Fuel Nozzle. Photo by Michael Petch.

The FAA has recently certified an increasing amount of metal 3D printed parts for actual in-flight use. Back in late 2016, the FAA officially certified the LEAP engine, created by GE Aviation, which contains a 3D printed, full-functional fuel nozzle. This past March, the University of Akron and Airborne Maintenance and Engineering Services (AMES) sought out certification from the FAA for its innovative additive manufacturing maintenance and repair system. FAA Chief Scientific & Technical Adviser for both fatigue and damage tolerance, Michael Gorelik, recently told Space News,

“Three to four years ago, none of my peers believed we would see additive manufacturing of safety-critical parts…We don’t have them yet, but based on the landing indicators, I see it’s coming and it’s coming fairly fast”

The draft of the additive manufacturing road map was recently submitted at the FAA headquarters in Washington D.C. and contains a significant amount of input from organizations at the forefront of additive manufacturing. These organizations include NASA, the U.S. Army, the U.S. Navy and the Aerospace Industries Association’s Additive Manufacturing Working Group, all of which have gotten extended 3D printing financial support from the U.S. Government’s budget for 2018.

Perhaps the biggest challenge in drafting such road map as comprehensive as the FAA’s for additive manufacturing was creating a system that can accurately enclose all of the new technologies that are and continue to arise. Gorelik also told Space News:

“One could try to group them by source of raw material, for example powder versus wire, and by the source of energy used to melt the material, laser versus electron beam versus plasma arc…This is a huge technical problem scope, it would be impractical for any single entity to try to address it single handedly. In my mind, collaboration is the key to ensure the safe introduction of this exciting new technology in commercial, as well as military aerospace.”

One classification of 3D printing technology that is heavily used across the industry is the Additive Manufacturing Development Structure framework developed by ISO and ASTM. More specifically is the ASTM F42 Additive Manufacturing group’s description of the 7 categories of process.


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