The Benefits of 3D Printing for Aerospace and Defense

Low-Volume Production

3D printing is suitable for industries such as aerospace and defense, where highly complex parts are manufactured in small quantities. Using technology, complex geometries can be created without having to invest in expensive tools. It gives aerospace OEMs and manufacturers a cost-effective way to manufacture small batches of parts in a cost-effective manner.

Weight Reduction

Including aerodynamics and engine efficiency, weight is one of the most important factors to be considered when it comes to designing an aircraft. Reducing aircraft weight will reduce carbon dioxide emissions, fuel consumption, and payload significantly. That is where 3D printing comes in: Technology is the perfect method for producing lightweight parts, resulting in significant fuel economy. When paired with design optimization tools such as generative design software, the component’s potential to increase complexity is nearly infinite.

Material Efficiency

Since the 3D printing process works by creating parts layer by layer, most of the material is used only where it is required. As a consequence, less waste is produced than traditional subtractive methods.

The selection of available aerospace and defense 3D printable materials varies from engineering thermoplastics (e.g. ULTEM 9085, ULTEM 1010, PAEK, reinforced nylon) to metal powders (high-performance alloys, titanium, aluminum, and stainless steel). The variety of 3D printable materials available is constantly expanding, allowing advanced aerospace applications.

Consolidation of the Part

One of the main benefits of 3D printing is the aspect of convergence: The ability to combine several parts into one piece. Reducing the amount of parts available would minimize the assembly and repair period considerably by reducing the time needed for assembly.

Maintenance and Repair

The average lifespan of an aircraft can range from 20 to 30 years, making maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) an important function in the industry. Metal 3D-printing techniques such as direct energy deposition are widely used to repair aerospace and military hardware. Turbine blades and other high-end devices may also be restored and repaired by applying material to the worn-out surface.

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