Nov 16, 2017 | By Benedict

Emirates, the Dubai-based airline, is using selective laser sintering (SLS) 3D printing to make cabin parts for its aircraft. The 3D printed parts, some of which have been printed by 3D Systems, include video monitor shrouds and cabin air vent grills.

For Emirates, the world’s fourth largest airline, 3D printing must have seemed like an obvious choice. The airline is at the center of an industry that seems more and more willing to take advantage of additive manufacturing: aerospace companies like Boeing, Airbus, and Lockheed Martin have all experimented with 3D printed parts, and the trend shows no signs of slowing down.

But Emirates has a geographical advantage when it comes to 3D printing too. Although there aren’t many additive manufacturing firms based in the Middle East, the airline’s home of Dubai is one of the most pro-additive places on Earth, with the city’s 3D Printing Strategy aiming to have 25 per cent of Dubai’s buildings 3D printed by 2030.

According to Emirates, it has used SLS 3D printers to fabricate video monitor shrouds for its aircraft, in addition to 3D printing, certifying, and installing aircraft cabin air vent grills for onboard trials.

Emirates’ new video monitor shrouds were 3D printed using 3D Systems’ Duraform ProX FR1200 material, which has a low level of flammability, and the airline reports a number of advantages that have come about thanks to the 3D printing of the parts: the shrouds are strong, can be printed in batches on a single print job, and are between 9 and 13 per cent lighter than components made traditionally or with FDM 3D printers.

Emirates' 3D printed video monitor shroud printed using 3D Systems SLS tech

The lightness of the SLS 3D printed shrouds is particularly important, Emirates says, because it could lead to significant reductions in fuel emissions and costs when consolidated over the entire fleet of Emirates aircraft.

But 3D printing offers another big advantage: not having to keep huge numbers of spare parts in stock. Since 3D printing can be used to fabricate one-off parts on demand, the airline just needs to keep the digital file for its 3D printable shroud on a hard drive, and can re-print further numbers of the part only when needed.

“Over the last two years Emirates Engineering has been actively exploring 3D printing for aircraft cabin parts as it is a transformational technology that can be used to achieve an increase in efficiency and productivity,” said Ahmed Safa, Emirates Senior Vice President of Engineering Support Services.

Emirates' 3D printed cabin air vent grill developed with UUDS

The 3D printed shrouds are currently in the process of receiving EASA certification for airworthiness for aircraft interior cabin parts. Once that certification comes in, the shrouds will tested for onboard durability over the course of several test flights over several months.

Another 3D printed part produced by Emirates has, however, already received EASA certification. That part is a 3D printed aircraft cabin air vent grill developed with UUDS, a European aviation Engineering and Certification Office and Services Provider based in France.

According to Emirates, both the 3D Systems and UUDS collaborations have been a big success.

“We worked with a number of suppliers to develop prototypes of 3D printed cabin parts but ultimately decided on working with 3D Systems and UUDS,” Safa said. “The technology we use has the potential to deliver cabin parts with reduced weight without compromising on structural integrity or cosmetic appeal.”

Looking to the future, Emirates will now evaluate the performance and durability of both the 3D printed air vent grills and 3D printed video monitor shrouds before potentially introducing them to its fleet. The airline also plans to continue exploring the use of additive manufacturing for other parts.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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leonardo kok wrote at 11/17/2017 7:36:37 AM:

innovative thinking is the next right step into a successful future, no doubt this what has been done here made peoples expectations reality, and furthermore viable. thank you , as this does not only set margins for thinking but also a benchmarck on improvising.

trevor langevin wrote at 11/16/2017 8:15:43 PM:

In the past many airlines have attempted to manufacture non critical parts to ease the cost of buying certified parts from a manufacturer. The problem is if any of those parts are the source cause for an accident or incident for any reason, the airlines insurance won't cover them. For example the cabin lower sidewall vents used in this article. These vents take a beating from close proximity to passengers feet, luggage, cleaning crews forcing vacuums in between seat frames and the vents frequently damage them by breaking off louvers. The parts themselves from the manufacturer are not strong enough as it is. Printing in SLA produces a part even less strong. Should those broken parts fall within the aircraft structure and become lodged in a critical system such as an aircraft cargo hold door, it could cause an accident. Not only would the airline not be covered by insurance, the safety authorities would fine them for manufacture of non approved parts. All airlines are looking to cut costs, and regrettably its accidents that will determine the future of non approved 3D printed parts in the industry.

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