3D printing applications in aerospace in full growth mode

August 02, 2017
Written by ABI Research
In a recent B2B technology survey, ABI Research finds that 44% of manufacturing companies currently have 3D printers in operation, however, most of these deployments are for prototyping purposes only.

This is set to change over the next 10 years as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) approve more 3D-printed parts for use in commercial jet engines, and additive manufacturing (AM) specialists continue to innovate for production scale implementation in other industries.

"Aerospace original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), hospitals, dentists, and their suppliers already benefit from practical 3D Printing use cases," says Pierce Owen, principal analyst at ABI Research. "Now, innovation from both established and new entry specialists will create more use cases in more industries on a scale not seen before. Even if AM does not make sense for mass production, distributed manufacturing platforms that provide access to 3D printers close to end users, will empower almost all manufacturers to explore using AM for replacement parts on-demand."

The U.S. aerospace and defense industries will make up a large chunk of AM growth over the next ten years, producing additive manufactured parts and products with a value of US$17.8 billion in 2026, due to the sheer size of the American aerospace industry and its defense budget. GE Additive and GE Aviation already 3D print fuel nozzles for the LEAP jet engines designed for the commercial aircraft of Airbus, Boeing and the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac).

Beyond aerospace, Stratasys's PolyJet modelling has proven particularly effective in producing anatomical models for surgical planning. Because PolyJet modelling can use multiple materials and colors, it can produce customized models with bones of the correct density and tissues with accurate vascular structures. Also, adoption will pick up in footwear, where Adidas will use Carbon's AM systems for mid-soles in thousands of shoes and Nike will use HP's for spikes on track and football cleats.

"While certain industries have already embraced 3D Printing technology, to have widespread appeal, other sectors will have to redesign both products and supply chains with the help of AM engineering consultants and front-line workers, and AM specialists will have to build machines that work faster and cheaper," concludes Owen.

These findings are from ABI Research's Enterprise 3D Printing and Distributed Manufacturing report. This report is part of the company's Industrial Internet research service, which includes research, data, and analyst insights.

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