The Aerospace and Defense (A&D) industry is a great example of utilization Additive Manufacturing (AM) (commonly referred to as 3D Printing) with a clear value proposition and the ability to create parts that are stronger and lighter than parts made using traditional manufacturing.
The A&D industry was a very early adopter of 3D printing and still continues to contribute heavily to its development.
Common 3D printing use-cases in aerospace
Jigs & Fixtures
Big benefits exist for some of the more mundane 3D printing applications, including jigs and fixtures making. For each individual aircraft, companies have hundreds of fixtures, guides, templates, and gauges 3D printed, generally with 60 to 90 percent reductions in cost and lead time compared to other manufacturing processes.
Surrogates are placeholder parts used throughout production that represent components that are later installed in final assemblies. Surrogates are mainly used for training. NASA and several air force bases commonly use surrogate parts on the production floor.
A model of a jet engine for educational purposes.
High detail visual prototypes
3D printing with Material Jetting is able to produce multicolor designs with a surface finish comparable to injection molding. These visually appealing models allow designers to get a greater understanding of the form and fit of a part before production decisions.
This highly accurate method of prototyping is also ideal for aerodynamic testing and analysis, as the surface finish that is able to be achieved is often representative of a final part.
3D printing is used routinely to manufacture aerospace components that rely on aesthetics over function, such as door handles and light housings to control wheels and full interior dashboard designs.
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