Airbus to Explore 3D Printed Parts in China
In a recent announcement, Airbus and China’s Northwestern Polytechnical University (NPU) have signed a cooperation agreement to explore ways to produce large-scale aerospace parts.
As part of the agreement, NPU will use its enormous laser-sintering machine to print titanium alloy parts that will be made to Airbus specifications and validated by the aerospace giant’s engineers.
With the potential to create parts that are 55% lighter than forged components, Airbus’ investment in 3D printing could very quickly translate into planes with greater fuel efficiency, speed and aerodynamics.
“We are pleased to have been selected by Airbus … as a partner to carry out the pilot project to explore ways of applying 3D printing technology in commercial aviation,” says NPU President Weng Zhiqian. “This project is a test for our 3D research capability and we are confident we will deliver satisfactory results on quality and on time that will establish a solid foundation for further cooperation in this field.”
While it will be years before we see large parts being flown on massive commercial jets, NPU, which has been researching 3D printing since 1995, does have a track record of creating fully functional, flight ready parts.
Back in 2013 NPU printed a 5-meter (16.4ft) long central Comac C919 wing spar, which is expected to see flight tests later this year. If those tests are successful the Cormac could see commercial service as soon as 2016, marking a major milestone in additive manufacturing history.
Image Courtesy of NPU