Jun 23, 2015 | By Simon

It’s no secret that one of the most exciting areas where we’re seeing a lot of development in additive manufacturing as a method of final manufacture is the aerospace industry.  

Among other reasons why everybody from Bell Helicopters and Boeing have chosen to use 3D printed parts - or, more specifically direct metal laser sintering - is a combination of low-cost production, ability to customize designs on-the-fly and in many cases, an increase in structural strength compared to more traditionally manufactured parts.  

When all of the above factors are combined, it becomes clear why many are saying that as developments continue to be made in the additive manufacturing space, it will be only a matter of time before we start seeing an increase in parts for some of the world’s most mechanically-complex engineering marvels that are made using 3D printers.  

But of course, spurring that innovation on all levels of the industry is a priority for getting to that level.  Among other countries who are focused on leading the pack in additive manufacturing technologies for aerospace applications include the United Kingdom.

Recently, the UK’s Business Minister Anna Soubry announced a £10m competition to find "game-changing" aerospace technologies that can help "keep Britain at the forefront of the global aerospace market".

The new competition - which is aimed at entrepreneurs and small businesses - was announced during a recent visit to Coventry's Manufacturing Technology Centre, where she recently opened the £60m Aerospace Research Centre and National Centre for Net Shape and Additive Manufacturing.    

The new centre will allow companies both big and small to develop new materials and processes such as lightweight carbon fiber for use in various aerospace applications.  Additionally, a 3D printing centre will help researchers develop new products for engines and accessories including landing gear, interior elements and even  applications for other industries including medical and automotive.  

"Government and industry are working together to keep Britain at the forefront of the global aerospace market,” said Soubry during the announcement.  “We are currently second only to the United States, but there is more to do and it is important that we continue to invest in R&D and develop ground-breaking technologies.”

In addition to announcing the competition, Soubry also announced additional funding for four aerospace projects.  

Among the projects, Spirit AeroSystems, the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre and Aeromet will receive a total of £6.4m to further research advanced automated assembly technologies (otherwise referred to as a ‘factory of the future’), while UTC Aerospace Systems will receive £4.4m to work alongside the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre on their own projects.   

Additionally, Airbus will receive £7.2m to research ways to remove imperfections on wing surfaces and £5m will be given to a consortium led by British engineering company Meggitt to look into how pioneering technologies such as additive manufacturing and automation can be applied to aircraft factory production.  

"Demand for new aircraft is at record levels - around 45,000 new aircraft and 40,000 helicopters are needed between now and 2032, worth over $5 trillion,” added Soubry.  

“This will provide billions of pounds of work to the UK economy given our leading capability in wings, engines, helicopters, advanced systems and services … Getting this right will deliver economic benefit through our large, midsized and small companies across the breadth of the country."

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Applications

 

 

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