3-D Printing at the Forefront of Aircraft Design

Three dimensional printerYou’ve probably heard about 3-D printing and recognized that it is one of the most disruptive technologies we have today. New advances in 3-D printing machines are allowing scientists and engineers to experiment with new materials, different configurations, and fresh strategies on efficiencies by mixing metal powders in new and innovative ways.

Just this year, the engineers of GE Aviation 3-D printed a mini jet engine — it’s the size of a backpack — and then took the engine to 33,000 rpm. This is just one of the more recent innovations. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) cleared the first 3-D printed aircraft part — a housing for a sensor — to fly in commercial jet engines.

What are the benefits of 3-D printing in the aviation industry?

  • Lighter-weight parts — Unlike traditional manufacturing methods that cut away material from a metal slab to make the part, 3-D printing uses an additive manufacturing model and ‘grows’ the part with layers of fine metal powder fused together with a laser. Lighter parts make for a lighter aircraft and more fuel efficiency.
  • Faster production — With 3-D printing, aircraft parts can be created in a fraction of the time and leave behind far less waste material.
  • Simpler designs — The number of components typically required to make an aircraft part is significantly reduced, resulting in far simpler part designs and less that could go wrong.
  • Durability — Improvements in 3-D technology mean stronger, better printed parts — up to five times tougher than traditionally manufactured parts.

In the end, additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing, results in the ability to replace complex assemblies with lightweight designs that will improve the fuel efficiencies and environmental impact of jet engines.

What are the challenges posed by 3-D printing?

Technically speaking, the possibilities of 3-D printing seem to be infinite, but some of the challenges ahead for 3-D printing in the aviation industry include:

  • Cost — 3-D printers themselves typically cost several million dollars each.
  • Approval — Required safety standards for parts are not up to date with 3-D printing models.
  • Legal challenges — If a part produced by 3-D printing reveals a flaw in the design after an accident, who is responsible?
  • Intellectual property rights — It is possible to purchase an object and recreate it with a 3-D printer, but what legal protection does the individual who created the design have?

Airbus’ latest passenger aircraft — the A350 XWB — has over 1,000 components that were created by 3-D printing, so it’s clear that the future of 3-D printing is here and the aircraft industry is in full support.

Contact L & L International if you need assistance in purchasing or selling a private jet. You can reach our sales specialists today at, call us any time at +1.305.754.3313, or visit us online.

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