Jan 23, 2017 | By Tess

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) could soon see the arrival of 3D printed aircraft, thanks to a new three-way partnership between industrial equipment manufacturer Siemens AG, UAE-based aerospace manufacturer Strata Manufacturing PJSC, and Etihad Airways, the UAE’s second largest airline. Together, the three companies are seeking to develop the first 3D printed parts for aircraft interiors in the region.

The partnership has the aim of further integrating additive manufacturing technologies into the aerospace sector in an effort to improve aircraft designs and structural components. This will include the design and manufacturing of new, more structurally complex parts, as well as the manufacturing of discontinued parts, presumably for maintenance purposes.

As part of the partnership’s stated goal, a pilot project will be launched through which 3D printing solutions will be developed for the production of aircraft interior products for Etihad Airways. The forthcoming aircraft parts, as well as being a first for the airline, will mark the first 3D printed aviation parts “designed, manufactured, and certified in the UAE, Middle East and the entire Asian world.”

Each member of the partnership will occupy a distinct role for the upcoming project: Siemens AG, with its extensive experience with industrial additive manufacturing, will offer consultations on the materials, testing, and preparation processes used; Etihad Airways Engineering will certify the 3D printed parts; and Strata Manufacturing will be responsible for the actual 3D printing of said parts.

Once the pilot project is complete, and assuming it is a success, Siemens and Strata say they will explore the development of a strategic three-year joint roadmap, which itself will seek to further industrialize additive manufacturing within the MENA region. According to a press release, this joint roadmap will consist of a training program for UAE citizens that will help to further integrate and deploy 3D printing within the country and abroad.

Etihad Airways, for its part, has high hopes for the adoption of 3D printing into its business. As Jeff Wilkinson, Etihad Airways Engineering CEO, says, “The biggest challenge for the use of flying 3D printed parts in aviation is certification and we are ready to tackle it and make it a reality. Etihad Airways Engineering will be using its expertise and major design certification approval (Design Organization Approval – Part 21J) to design and certify the first 3D printed part for aircraft cabin in the UAE.”

As mentioned, 3D printing will allow the airline to produce more complex, optimized parts for its aircraft in a more cost-efficient and time-efficient manner. The flexibility afforded by 3D printing will also allow the company to adjust and improve upon designs more quickly than using traditional manufacturing methods.

“We see great opportunities for 3D printing as a disruptive force in manufacturing, and expect it to play a key role in a globally competitive, increasingly digitalized industrial landscape in the Middle East,” explained Assem Khalaili, Executive Vice President, Industry Customer Services, at Siemens Middle East. “This is highly relevant technology for the region’s development of an increasingly digitalized and diversified economic landscape, across a wide range of sectors.”

Fittingly, the partnership has been announced in time for the Global Manufacturing and Industrialization Summit, which Abu Dhabi will be hosting from March 27 to 30, 2017. At the summit, innovators and leaders from the aerospace, industrial equipment, and public sectors will come together to address and discuss the state of global manufacturing in the contemporary world. There is little doubt that additive manufacturing will be a key topic of discussion.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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