Manufacturing in aerospace engineering is a precise topic. Aerospace or aircraft manufacturing requires using know-how manufacturing techniques, latest techniques and pushing borders of traditional manufacturing methods.
Casting, molding, forming, machining and joining are traditional manufacturing processes that is used in manufacturing. Each process has different techniques for manufacturing. There is plenty of techniques in manufacturing processes. These techniques has some requirements for proper production. On the other side aerospace engineering has limitations/requirements in design and performance manner, too.
However with using new production techniques in aerospace engineering like 3D printing, it will be easier to overcome production limitations. 3D printing named as additive manufacturing. With this production process three dimensional parts are manufactured by sequentially computer controlled deposition of materials. Plastic is common raw material for 3D printing. 3D printers that use metal powder are rare and still under development.
Extending life of equipment and having confidence for parts are major points in aerospace engineering. 3D printing can be used manufacturing complex shaped manufacturing aircraft parts. Precision of dimensions and close tolerance to final aircraft parts even nano sized parts can be possible using additive manufacturing. With 3D printing it is easier to have well mixed raw materials.
Different 3D printing techniques are available from fused deposition to ultrasonic additive manufacturing. Electron beam additive manufacturing which is suitable for near-net shape parts commonly used technique in aerospace engineering field. Tantalum, titanium and similar high-end engineering materials can be used in this technique.
Airbus has different aircraft projects that has 3D printed parts. Next generation A320neo Airbus passenger jet is one of them. This aircraft that is powered by twin LEAP jet engines has 3D printed fuel nozzles. With these fuel nozzles efficiency of engine increased by 15 percent. Similarly, Airbus A350 XWB has 1000 more than 3D printed parts. All of this commercial applications show that 3D printing will be common production method of aircraft manufacturing.
Decreasing production cost of unique part is another benefit of using 3D printing. It is easier to apply supply chain management in additive manufacturing. Additive manufacturing doesn’t require tools. Opposite side of traditional production processes like casting and powder metallurgy it possible to eliminate tool cost in 3D printing. In mass production 3D printing can’t compete with traditional processes. Nevertheless 3D printing is best manufacturing solution for customization. Especially for prototyping. With 3D printing it is easy to create objects that are really complex and can’t be created by traditional manufacturing processes.
3D printing is not completely perfect process. There is limitations about part sizes. Over volume parts production in aerospace industry can’t be produced by additive manufacturing. Using robots or combining 3D printing with traditional processes during manufacturing is an alternative but not adequate solution. On the other side a huge research and development area in 3D printing method. Still need improvements using new materials and alloys. Additive manufacturing in aerospace industry can be used for repairing critical parts. With new technologies it is possible to extend life of metal parts.
Next generation of manufacturing has new horizons. Dream a manufacturing process that is possible to create a cockpit by one click. It’s sure that is not possible at the moment. But aircraft industry has dynamic development. If 3D printing technology has increased speed and material quality more industrial parts will be adopting this process.
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