Airbus has thrown open a new additive layer manufacturing initiative to demonstrate the company’s pioneering spirit in creating new and better ways to fly its aircraft.
The initiative will create a grouping of experts and competencies from the aircraft manufacturer’s engineering, manufacturing engineering and procurement operations. With this knowledge base, Airbus aims to define a vision, strategy and roadmap for applying further 3D printing technologies.
This approach will accelerate the company’s technical and industrial competencies and bring together research and technology activities directly with programs, said Jerome Rascol, who heads this additive layer manufacturing initiative. “I can see Airbus manufacturing a ‘bionic’ aircraft based on 3D printing in the future, so we’re taking a pragmatic, step-by-step approach,” he said.
Relatively a quick process for creating 3D parts from a digital model by adding successive thin layers of a base material, additive manufacturing creates lighter parts, with shorter lead times. It also results in fewer materials being used during production and a significant reduction in the manufacturing process’ environmental footprint.
3D printed parts are already being applied in Airbus’ commercial jetliner product line – from the widebody A350 XWB to its single-aisle A320neo and the cornerstone A300/A310 Family. For example, some 2,700 plastic parts have been produced by additive manufacturing for the A350 XWB program, with Airbus also working with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to qualify titanium components produced with 3D printing technology.
This innovative technology also has been utilized to produce pylon components for the A320neo (new engine option) developmental aircraft in support of the flight test campaign, and for out-of-production spare parts on the A300/A310 Family of jetliners.
Image and excerpts from Airbus