Airbus Takes on Stratasys 3D Printing for Serial Part Production

At last month’s Paris Air Show, Stratasys made an important announcement indicating that 3Dprinting polymers were just about ready for prime time. With the release of a new configuration of a Fortus 900 3D printer and its ULTEM 9085 thermoplastic, fused deposition modeling (FDM) may now be capable of repeatable reliability to the extent that it can be qualified for production parts for use in aircraft.

Now, further news from Stratasys Direct Manufacturing, the company’s 3D printing and advanced manufacturing service provider, shows that FDM is ready for a big aerospace customer: Airbus. Airbus has selected Stratasys Direct Manufacturing to produce 3D-printed plastic parts for use on the A350 XWB aircraft.

3D-printed bracketing for the A350 aircraft made from ULTEM using FDM. (Image courtesy of Stratasys.)

3D-printed bracketing for the A350 aircraft made from ULTEM using FDM. (Image courtesy of Stratasys.)

This is not the first time that Stratasys and Airbus have worked together. In fact, Airbus and Stratasys have been collaborating since 2013.

As Scott Sevcik, head of aerospace, defense and automotive at Stratasys, explained to, “Over the past several years, we’ve been announcing various steps in our collaboration with Airbus around their use of our technology. In 2015, we announced that they had printed parts for the A350 and certified the process as part of their certification. Last year, we announced that they had standardized the technology and were flowing the process down into their supply chain.”

This announcement, then, signals the fact that Airbus has determined the FDM parts to be ready for serial production. “What we’re able to now announce is that, in addition to being the technology provider, Airbus has selected our Stratasys Direct Manufacturing business to deliver serial production parts for the A350,” Sevcik said.

The partnership will allow Airbus to have better supply chain flexibility and cost competitiveness, while reducing material consumption and waste through the use of 3D printing. Parts can be 3D printed on demand and shipped to Airbus, resulting in greater reactivity, faster turnaround times and lower inventory costs.
So far, the parts that will be printed for Airbus include non-loaded or lightly loaded interior cabin parts, such as covers for cable routing, according to Sevcik. Therefore, we may still be further off from structural elements, but the fact that Airbus is ready for the serial production of lightly loaded and non-loaded parts is a significant milestone indicating just how far the technology has come from the days of prototyping.