Airbus continues to be one of the pioneers in using 3D printing technology for aircraft manufacturing. Keeping in line with other forces to be reckoned with such as NASA and Boeing, the France-based manufacturer has shown no fear, using up to a thousand 3D printed parts in planes such as the Airbus A350 XWB. 3D printed parts allow them to create parts that are lightweight, super durable, and compliant in terms of flame, smoke, and toxicity.
Their work in 3D printing has continued as they’ve partnered with companies like Altair and Renishaw, fabricating aircraft wings for the future. Last summer they even unveiled the unmanned Thor, a completely 3D printed and fully functional plane that doubles as a 13-foot drone and will be used for some ‘riskier’ flights and investigations.
Now, Airbus is continuing to take advantage of the benefits afforded by 3D printing, via components that will soon be found in the A330neo (New Engine Option) jetliner and BelugaXL airlifter, offering savings on the bottom line as well as greater expediency in production.
Airbus developed a 3D printed prototype air nozzle for the climate control system in the passenger cabin of the A330neo, which according to the manufacturer can seat up to 257 people. The nozzles will be part of a new design meant to offer compatibility with overhead storage compartments that are now larger. Airbus includes the new storage designs in part of the ‘Airspace by Airbus’ cabin concept that will not only be seen in the A330neo, but also the A350 XWB.
The A330neo is one of the first aircraft that will be launched to demonstrate the luxurious new cabin philosophy created by Airbus. Passengers will be able to relax and enjoy new features such as detailed lighting, bigger seats, current entertainment options, and wifi capabilities. More personal space is offered too.
3D printing will also be seen enhancing the BelugaXL in the form of new drilling templates created for operators working on the aircraft. The templates will be compatible with the new configuration for the Beluga, an over-sized plane responsible for carrying large aircraft components. It is a ‘modified version of the A330’ and is meant to carry entire sections of planes to Airbus production facilities.
“Operators come to me with a specific need and we discuss what’s possible, then I build a customised, computer-generated solution for manufacturing with the 3D printer,” said Marc Carré, the Mock-Up Integrator for Manufacturing at Airbus Commercial Aircraft.
Obviously, Airbus is only beginning to touch on the power of 3D printing for their aircraft, from adding luxury for the interiors to boosting inner components of their aircraft for greater performance.