3D Printing Technologies Commonly Used in the Aerospace Industry

Aerospace designers and engineers rely on 3D printing technologies and advanced manufacturing expertise to provide sturdy, lightweight, and flight-worthy components for prototype iterations and production parts. 

For several years, the aerospace industry has been searching for efficient solutions for harsh environments and applications in this fast-pacing innovative industry.

Thanks to the breakthrough applications and benefits of the 3D printing technology that ensure consistent, excellent quality components capable of achieving FAA certification.

This article will discuss the wide range of 3D technologies commonly used in Aerospace and its applications..

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)

It is a method of additive manufacturing where multiple layers of materials are fused to create strong and durable 3D objects or parts with unsurpassed accuracy and repeatability.

Different materials are used in FDM techniques, including the most common production-grade thermoplastics, pastes, and even “exotic” materials like metal- or wood-infused thermoplastic.

FDM is one of the simplest ways to achieve 3D printing due to its cost-effectiveness and efficiency. Other significant benefits of this 3D additive manufacturing technology include design freedom, material flexibility, scalability, and ease of use.

Selective Laser Sintering (LS)

It is an additive manufacturing process that utilizes a high-power laser to sinter small particles of polymer powder into a solid structure based on a 3D model.

This technology is widely trusted by engineers and manufacturers across different industries for its capability to manufacture sturdy, functional parts. Additionally, the low cost per part, high productivity, and established materials are what make Selective Laser Sintering perfect for a variety of applications, from rapid prototyping to small-batch, bridge, or custom manufacturing.

Engineers and manufacturers in the aerospace industry prefer selective laser sintering for its design freedom, high productivity, throughput, and proven end-use materials.

Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS)

Direct metal laser sintering (DMLS), also called selective laser sintering (SLS), is a type of metal additive manufacturing used for both rapid prototyping and mass production of metal parts.

It is one of the established additive manufacturing (AM) processes for three-dimensional (3D) printing of functional prototypes.

The technique is quite similar to selective laser melting (SLM), also called direct metal laser melting, but on a molecular level, the powder is only sintered (not melted) together. 

It results in parts that are less porous than the melting method. The advantage to this is that you can easily print from alloys containing materials with different melting points. You can even combine metal and plastic materials.

The benefits of this method in the aerospace industry include geometric design freedom, sustainable technology, and a near-net-shape or ready-to-install geometry that shortens the production time and saves costs.

Various Applications of 3D Printing Technology in Aerospace

With the help of various 3D technologies mentioned above, here are some of the applications of 3D technology in the aerospace industry.

• Tooling, fixtures, and jigs

• Lighting components

• Environmental and control system

• Conformal fuel tanks

• Metals forming tools

Structural UAV components

Take away

3D technology offers incredible opportunities for the low-volume production of Aerospace. Initially intended for prototyping, additive manufacturing is currently being utilized as a full-blown mechanism for end-use parts manufacturing.

The aerospace industry will continue to benefit from this technology by using processes such as generative design and topology optimization to fabricate highly complex and lightweight structures with high stability, which is one of the biggest challenges in this industry.