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3d printing

To keep pace with an increasingly competitive international market, it’s crucial that the UK’s aerospace industry continues to find ways to improve passenger experience whilst scaling back costs and becoming more energy efficient. To support this, the UK Government invested £100 million last year, aiming to attract new skills, technology and innovation to the industry.

Finding new means of reducing weight, cutting down on emissions, and increasing cargo and cabin capacity, airline manufacturers have embraced the spirit of innovation by turning to the latest in digital manufacturing technology as the key way forward.

Organisations across a range of industries are currently enjoying new and exciting opportunities to transform their business and improve their speed to market through employing digital manufacturing technology. The advances in automation and the new types of manufacturing processes it offers, running in parallel with significant developments in existing technology, represent part of an ongoing transformation within the aerospace industry.

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While last Wednesday’s (January 6) Talking Point gave some insight into what figures in the world of MRO believe they will see in 2016, technology is also sure to play a crucial role for companies looking to gain a competitive edge this year.

And according to one industry expert, it will be issues around the rapid adoption of 3D printing, as well as wider use of emerging tech such as wearable devices and drones for maintenance checks that could make an impact in the year ahead.

Writing for MRO Network, Graham Grose, industry director at the IFS Aerospace & Defence Centre of Excellence, also explained how aviation OEMs can meet the challenge of growing sector problems such as counterfeiting while better managing their supply chains.

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Once upon a time 3D printing (3DP) technology would have been a concept seen in a sci-fi movie, but now as the aviation industry steps into the next generation it’s all too clear that the additive manufacturing market has been given life.

A report released by ReportsnReports in September discusses the world of 3DP, taking a look at the opportunities such a technology brings to the industry. It outlines how standard 3DP market models can be applied to the aviation business, while providing a 10-year forecast on various ways the technology can be implemented into the industry, suggesting that 3DP will soon take the industry by storm.

And, just yesterday (October 5), Reportbuyer released a statement reiterating that the global 3DP materials market is expected to grow at a CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 18.2 per cent between now and 2020.

Tagged 3d printing, GEnx

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Suppliers to explore 3D printing of fuselages

Fuselage maker Stelia Aerospace (Sogerma and Aerolia) has partnered with metal supplier Constellium and engineering company CT Ingenierie to conduct research into the possibility of using additive manufacturing to create large aerostructures such as fuselages

The 3D printing paradox

3D printing or ‘additive manufacturing’ is increasingly stepping forward to meet the demand for efficient MRO in civil aviation. Brendan Viggers, product and sales - aerospace & defence at IFS, looks at the implications production, supply chains and ERP systems.

3D printing or ‘additive manufacturing’ is increasingly stepping forward to meet the demand for efficient MRO in civil aviation. Brendan Viggers, product and sales - aerospace & defence at IFS, looks at the implications production, supply chains and ERP systems.

3D printing is becoming a 'must have' for manufacturers rather than a luxury R&D project. In the aerospace and defence industry (A&D) the uptake of 3D printing for the manufacturing process is taking off. In civil aviation, companies like Boeing and Airbus have been using the process to manufacture components for more than two years, with Airbus recently printing 1,000 parts to meet delivery deadlines for the A350.

With demand for air travel showing no signs of slowing down, civil aviation organisations must ensure aircraft remain airworthy and in the air for the maximum possible amount of time. Despite positive uptake of additive manufacturing, in A&D we have only glimpsed the top of a large and growing iceberg.

Why 3D has a special place for aircraft manufacturers

The complex and specialist nature of aviation equipment makes for a vast supply chain. The thousands of constituent parts required to assemble an aircraft engine are typically sourced from companies scattered across the globe. Coupled with strict industry safety regulations, this poses a supply chain problem for civil aviation firms, particularly when it comes to MRO. With ‘spares utilisation’ a key to keeping assets operational for the maximum amount of time, 3D printing offers a solution.

When MRO software indicates a component is faulty or at the end of life span, the availability of a replacement can effect operations. Instead of flying in specialist parts from any given corner of the globe, 3D manufacturing allows civil aviation enterprises to manufacture the required part quickly, cost-efficiently and crucially, on-site. With the threat of operational downtime negatively influencing revenue, 3D printing offers savings on both fronts.

ROI to drive uptake

One of the key inhibitors to large scale adoption of any new technology such as 3D printing, particularly in the civil aviation sector, is perceived return on investment (ROI). But with Rolls-Royce and GE both stating on the record that they can produce lighter engines more quickly by incorporating 3D printing into their manufacturing process, and both now with plans announced to produce engine parts through additive manufacturing over the coming years,  the ROI is clear.  

Boeing and Airbus have even been using the process for small components, like hinges, since 2013. In fact, Airbus recently printed 1,000 parts to ensure they met a delivery deadline. As the technology becomes more advanced and affordable, more enterprises in the aviation sector will see the business benefits. A recent study of 3D printing adoption by Price Waterhouse Cooper estimates the MRO market stands to save $3.4bn annually in material and logistical costs alone.

It's not what you do, it's controlling changes in the way that you do it

While 3D printing is rightly being welcomed in the aviation sector, it is crucial that business processes mirror the technology change. In an industry as heavily regulated as aerospace and defence, safety is paramount. Comprehensive training around use of 3D printing machines will become a necessity, alongside quality control methods when assessing components manufactured by the process. It will also require key changes in the ERP systems which control every element of the manufacturing and supply chain process.

Organisations such as IFS are developing a new generation of more modular applications-based ERP software, to remove the time and pain required to modify processes in traditional, more monolithic, ERP systems.

Undoubtedly, additive manufacturing has provided the A&D industry with an enormous opportunity to make parts much more efficiently. The accuracy of manufacturing with 3D printing, the time saved when out in the field, as well as the potential cost savings, cannot be ignored. But 3D printing is just one part of the whole manufacturing process and will bring about substantial change in whole ERP infrastructure. ERP software becomes even more vital to manage MRO.

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