Transformative Growth Potential of Aerospace Additive Manufacturing Applications
Increased technology adoption and materials innovation transforming aerospace parts production
Over the past decade, the aerospace industry has witnessed the growing application of additive manufacturing technology. Major applications include developing parts for the aircraft interior and engine. The technology replaces parts made using the traditional manufacturing process, offering aerospace companies increased supply chain flexibility and the ability to meet on-time delivery commitments to airlines. This research study highlights the leading additive manufacturing technologies used in the aerospace industry and their application areas. Major additive manufacturing drivers identified in the study are reduction in waste materials, consolidation of assembly in a single part, lower prototyping costs, improvements in parts reliability, and support in maintaining lean inventory. Major restraints include the inability of additive manufacturing technology to support the economies of scale concept and high manufacturing costs. The patents landscape activity considers the patents published in the past 10 years. The top 5 patent assignees are mainly commercial aircraft and engine OEMs. A regional analysis of the patent landscape shows China holding the highest number of publications, followed by the US and Japan. China has more than double the patents published compared to the United States. A primary reason is that local aerospace companies and universities in China actively engage in additive manufacturing R&D activities and publishing patents. Leading additive technology providers identified include Stratasys, EOS, GE Additive, and 3D Systems.
Leading aerospace OEMs and suppliers are focused on innovating and utilizing new technologies, encompassing analytics and digitalization. They aim to improve manufacturing process efficiency and produce lighter and more fuel-efficient aircraft. Additive manufacturing technology will play a vital role in manufacturing lightweight and more reliable parts, enabling airlines to attain their carbon footprint reduction goals. The advent of UAM aircraft has the potential to disrupt the aviation market, with leading airlines like United Airlines, Azul, and DHL placing orders for this new aircraft type. Additive manufacturing technology providers should share the expertise gained from partnerships with aerospace OEMs to assist UAM aircraft OEMs, mainly startups, with parts certification processes by aviation regulatory agencies.
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