Airbus’s 3D printing technology business has teamed up with software house Dassault Systemes to perfect the process for designing and series manufacture of flight-approved metal parts – which could help bring printed structural components inside airliner cabins within a year.

As announced at Paris on Tuesday, Airbus APWorks and Dassault are collaborating to develop a new “end-to-end” design and qualification system that should give engineers the power to bring 3D printing advantages into structural applications – with the potential for huge gains in fuel consumption.

According to APWorks head of sales and marketing Sven Lauxmann, one example is a “bionic”-inspired partition wall between the cabin and galley. 3D printing makes if 50% lighter than a traditional part, which translates into CO2 savings of about 450,000t over the life of an aircraft.

Dramatic reductions in weight – with increases in strength – can also be achieved in arm rests.

But while 3D printing offers designers huge freedom, and printing machines are now fast enough for series production of metal parts, the technology has been held back by difficulties in demonstrating that designs are certifiable and in ensuring that production processes are consistently reliable. With data management and design and process visualisation help from Dassault, says Lauxmann, solutions are within reach.

Critically, he adds, there is now “momentum” building to take 3D printing beyond the realm of prototyping and into series production. While cabin parts could be realised in a year, Lauxmann reckons it will take 18 months to see the first series-produced parts for airframes or other structures.

Get all the coverage from the Paris air show

Source: Flight Daily News