Advantages of Additive Manufacturing

Additive manufacturing is becoming more popular and disruptive in several industries, and aerospace is no exception. Compared to other industries, aerospace is one area that focuses on low-volume production of systems that incorporate complex mechanical and electronic components.

FREMONT, CA: Additive manufacturing is growing in popularity and disrupting many industries, with Industry 4.0 in full swing, and aerospace is no exception. In contrast to other sectors of the economy, aerospace concentrates on low-volume manufacturing of intricate mechanical and electronic systems.

The aerospace sector has a lengthy history of being early adopters and innovators of new technologies. With this historical pattern in mind, additive manufacturing is becoming increasingly popular with industry titans. As a technology for rapid prototyping, 3D printing first played a specialised function in aerospace manufacturing. Nevertheless, recent developments are evolving into a strategic technology that is anticipated to add value across the supply chain for businesses like Airbus, GE, Boeing, and TTM.

The initial investment in additive manufacturing equipment is a significant cost factor, but manufacturers can more than recoup the initial investment thanks to the higher productivity of additive manufacturing techniques. For instance, compared to traditional manufacturing methods, additive printing of electronics can cut the lead time for a multi-layer PCB by 80 per cent.

Due to the potential for up to five additional redesigns of an electronics component during the product development cycle, aerospace manufacturers significantly improve both the design and performance of their products. Additionally, using more components made via additive manufacturing allows aerospace systems to be lighter, which lowers fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

The advantages of additive manufacturing in aerospace are not just hypothetical; they are now being witnessed, and their use will only grow in the future. In light of this, let's examine some significant cost advantages of additive manufacturing in the aerospace industry.

Typically, mechanical and electrical designers consider the constraints imposed by mass manufacturing techniques while creating new designs. Designs with intricate topologies might not be producible unless they are divided into several smaller parts. Contrarily, the typical geometries that subtractive manufacturing can offer are not limited to additive manufacturing. The number of pieces required can be decreased by fabricating components that require little to no assembly. This enables the creation of new assemblies and optimal designs.

The aerospace industry's success in additively manufacturing mechanical components with intricate geometries and fewer parts has already decreased the weight of completed parts. Fuel consumption is decreased when an aircraft's total weight is decreased. Sensor arrays, RF antennas and amplifiers, multilayer cable assemblies, and other specialised parts with a distinct functionality and form factor are examples of electronic components made with additive manufacturing.

Numerous aircraft applications are built on the foundation of several unusual metals. These materials are challenging to handle and machine using conventional techniques. However, additive manufacturing technologies are starting to use these materials.

Compared to traditional subtractive techniques, 3D printing greatly decreases waste due to its additive nature. Despite the higher cost of the materials used in additive processes, the reduced material waste more than makes up for the higher cost of the materials. Costs are anticipated to continue to decline while applications for additive manufacturing are projected to rise as more material suppliers and a wider variety of materials start to become available on the market.

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