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- Something new is coming to 3DPrinting.org. A new focus on education and placing a 3D Printer in every school that wants one. Stay tuned!
In the world of aerospace, it's the tiny parts that are usually the most important to making aircraft much more efficient and safer. They can also be responsible for something going terribly wrong as we've seen before in airline crashes. While America still faces the problem of aging airlines, what could be done to help overhaul them so it doesn't cost as much and brings more efficiency?
That's where aerospace 3d printing is starting to show the possibilities. With so much 3D printing for the aerospace industry already underway, we don't hear as much about how it could potentially help commercial aircraft. Some hints of this happened recently through an aircraft manufacturer located in the U.K. By printing one small and essential jet part, it seems to be paving the way toward using the technology for commercial purposes.
Helping Aging Aircraft
BAE Systems in the U.K. recently 3D-printed a part in an older military regional jet that perhaps set a new tipping point. The part in question was a plastic breather pipe used to help keep the pilot windows from fogging up. The jet, made by BAE, was older and required a particular piece of machinery in order to make the aforementioned pipe. When the machinery recently stopped being produced, it almost put the military jet out of commission.
However, a 3D printer managed to print the part with perfect symmetry. The jet is now being used again while saving BAE thousands of dollars in costs trying to build the previous machinery themselves.
It's just a small example of how 3D printing is shaping aerospace industries. While 3D printers are already being used to help create space equipment, using it on earthly commercial aircraft couldn't be more important in the immediate term. Could the technology finally bring a safer and more cost-efficient method to commercial airline travel in the future?
The Trickle Down of Cost
Because the additive manufacturing process creates aircraft parts that weigh less, it creates more energy efficiency when flying. On the ground, it also prevents less scrap metal to deal with, while also saving time and money going through painstaking manufacturing. Some parts are so complex, they can only be logically made on a 3D printer rather than require months of work on expensive machinery.
But having the ability to print parts that have become rare and challenging to make can help the commercial industry significantly. As airlines in America continually become older and older, replacing key parts that are 40 years old with 3D-printed prototypes will bring costs way down. This could eventually reflect in our airline tickets, even if we won't hold our breath.
Most of all, having airlines overhauled with 3D-printed parts will give us a better sense of security in knowing something won't fall apart. Outside of terrorism, worrying about an older part failing is no doubt still a singular fear of every airline traveler.