3D-Printing Lands on Interior Aerospace Cabin Solutions

Three-way partnership lowers adoption barriers to leverage additive manufacturing in aerospace applications.

Three-way partnership lowers adoption barriers to leverage additive manufacturing in aerospace applications.

The aerospace sector has been at the forefront of pushing additive manufacturing to new heights.

The industry has pushed the envelope with 3D printed end-use parts, including brackets, ducts, nozzles, turbine blades, and engine components in its quest to produce lighter, more fuel-efficient aircraft. AM has also become an entrenched way to create prototypes of tooling such as fixtures and jigs thanks to its ability to output complex parts on demand with little set-up work.

Fortune Business Insights pegged the global aerospace & defense AM market at $3.6 billion in 2020, poised to grow from $3.73 billion in 2021 to $13 billion by 2028. Among the sector pioneers leveraging AM technologies are Airbus, which has over 1,000 3D printed parts on its A350 XWB aircraft, along with NASA, which employs 3D printing in a variety of ways, including to develop and test a concept space rover that contains over 70 Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) 3D printed parts.

The latest area to benefit from 3D printing work is cabin solutions for aircraft interiors. In a boost to this area, Materialise NV, a provider of 3D printing solutions and services, has entered into a three-way partnership with Proponent, an independent aerospace distributor, and Stirling Dynamics, an EASA 21.J-certified Aerospace Design Organization.

By combining forces, the three companies aim to design, produce, and distribute certified 3D printed cabin solutions led by the work of Stirling Dynamics, which focuses on certified designs for 3D printed interior cabin parts while providing compete aircraft documentation and installation instructions. Materialise and Proponent have been working together since 2021 to raise the profile of 3D printing in the aerospace aftermarket supply chain. Their goal is to foster a digital supply chain enabling on-demand manufacturing of common aerospace parts while making it easier for MRO (maintenance, repair, and operations) groups to source 3D printed parts.

By adding an EASA Part 21.J DOA to the partnership, the companies bring together the ability to identify AM applications and design them by a certified DOA, with certified production by Materialise as a 21.G POA. The final piece is leveraging Proponent as an independent distributor.

Their goal is to reduce the hurdles OEMs and aircraft operators face when it comes to integrating 3D printed options into their interior cabin solutions. 3D printing can enable design optimizations, functional improvements, and the ability to create lighter and stronger parts that aren’t possible with conventional manufacturing technologies. 3D printing also promises time and cost reductions, which can benefit aerospace applications.

Together, Materialise, Proponent, and Stirling Dynamics aim to accelerate the adoption of 3D printing for cabin parts. Through the identification and design of smart 3D-printed solutions for OEMs, airlines, and MROs, this partnership will help airline customers easily leverage the design optimizations, functional improvements, and the creation of lighter and stronger parts that are not possible to produce with conventional manufacturing techniques. 3D printing also promises time and cost reductions, further enhancing its appeal for aerospace applications.

“By combining our respective expertise, we are creating a powerful alliance with the skills needed to lower AM adoption barriers in the aeronautics industry,” said Jurgen Laudus, vice president of Materialise Manufacturing. “We present the opportunity to design, produce, and distribute certified 3D-printed solutions, supporting the aerospace aftermarket in leveraging the exceptional benefits of 3D printing.”

Stirling Dynamics and Materialise have already developed several cabin repair solutions, and Proponent can leverage its OEM relationships to make them more widely available, officials said.

This video provides a look at how Stirling Dynamics leveraged 3D printing for an arm rest cap in an aircraft cabin.


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Beth Stackpole's avatar
Beth Stackpole

Beth Stackpole is a contributing editor to Digital Engineering. Send e-mail about this article to [email protected].

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