Apr. 16, 2015 | By Alec

While several companies in the aircraft industry have already adopted 3D printing technology as a prototyping technology for the design of all sorts of components, aircraft passengers currently rarely come into contact with actual 3D printed parts. All of that could be changing in the coming years, however, as airlines everywhere are looking for options to reduce weight and minimize costs. And it turns out that Saudi plastics developer SABIC has settled on 3D printing to not just do that, but to also differentiate brands and enhance flying experiences.

For at the Aircraft Interiors Expo Hamburg, that company is showcasing a number of new and inspiring 3D printed applications that will make aircraft lighter and its interiors more exciting. Key is the development of a series of 3D printable thermoplastics that meet all the regulatory requirements, including several interesting resins. While some of these engineering thermoplastics showcased in Hamburg are more suitable for injection molding and thermoforming manufacturing, they have even already 3D printed an entire aircraft seat to show off their materials’ potential.

For those of you who’ve never heard of SABIC (short for Saudi Basic Industries Corporation), it’s the world’s second largest chemical company and specializes in the production of various types of plastics. The company’s sales revenues for 2014 reached a very impressive $ 50.2 billion, and the company operates in more than 45 countries all over the world.

SABIC believes that these new generation (3D printable) materials can play a major role in not just making aircraft more affordable, but also in improving the aesthetics. ‘Our customers have told us that they are interested in a total solution that goes beyond providing a material,’ Market Direct Kim Choate writes on their website. ‘Historically, this has been our approach – to look at each customer’s need, and bring our years of global experience – including solutions that have worked for other industries – to the table.’

Of course, aircraft interiors are bound by complex manufacturing regulations, but SABIC is currently highlighting several materials in Hamburg that could be perfect for the next-generation of aircraft components. Among them are the extremely light-transmitting CLEAR LEXAN XHR2000 sheets(when uncoated), the CLEAR LEXAN XHR2HC1 and LEXAN XHR2HC2 sheets, and a number of other new materials.

But the eyecatching piece at their stand must surely be the 3D printed economy class airplane seat. 3D printed by Stratasys using SABIC’s ULTEM 9085 resin, it has been made to give visitors a clear glimpse of what is possible. As its designers from SABIC explain, the ULTEM resin is perfect for 3D printed options. Not only is it toxicity compliant and features low moisture absorption, it is also a highly flexible as a design material. The seat itself reportedly features less than 15 components.

While it will obviously take a few years before we will actually sit in these seats while flying, it is nonetheless wonderful to see that the aviation industry is turning to 3D printed manufacturing as a cost-controlling tool that also results in aesthetically pleasing designs. It says volumes about how far industrial-grade 3D printing technology has come, and suggests that 3D printers will be an integrated part of the future.



Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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Hubertus Veldmeijer wrote at 10/21/2016 9:03:14 AM:

Very interesting design, but take a better look at the turning point of the backrest!

Bernhard Vogt wrote at 4/16/2015 6:42:29 PM:

All great 3D printing these seats - but on a Fortrus FDM printer I would expect about 2 days of production for every seat - so this will never be viable. Only ounce SLS materials are qualified for use in Aerospace applications - will this ever be an option. FDM is not a production process.

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