Here at 3D Rapid Print, one of the fastest growing 3D Printing companies in the Thames Valley, we like to keep abreast of the latest innovations in 3D printing.

On January 28th 2021, Rapid Application Group (RAG) of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma announced that it would be collaborating with aerospace company Metro Aerospace (Metro) of Dallas, Texas in the manufacturing of 3D printed aircraft parts that would be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This would mainly focus on so-called “microvanes,” which Metro define as “small, 3D printed aerodynamic components that are surface-mounted on the fuselage of an aircraft to effectively reshape tail section airflow and reduce total drag on the aircraft.”

Microvanes were originally developed and patented by aerospace and defence company Lockheed Martin of Bethesda, Maryland; Metro has the exclusive global license from Lockheed Martin to produce, sell and distribute the product. Metro boasted that: microvanes were now in use on cargo aircraft across 5 continents, reduced aircraft fuel consumption by up to 4%, gave a related unspecified reduction in carbon emissions, and reduced engine wear. Other examples of 3D printed aircraft parts involve self-described “a GE Aviation businessAvio Aero of Turin, Italy and multinational conglomerate Honeywell of Charlotte, North Carolina.

In July 2019, Avio Aero announced that its second additive manufacturing plant had started producing parts for the then new GE Catalyst engine for the Cessna Denali light aircraft, which GE Aviation proclaimed as “the first turboprop engine in the world to have nearly 30 percent of its internal metal parts 3D printed.” (GE Avation of Evendale, Ohio is a subsidiary of multinational conglomerate General Electric of Boston, Massachusetts.) The engine was originally scheduled to make its first test flight by the end of 2019, although to date this has never happened, partly due to testing the engine taking much longer than expected. Nonetheless, in December 2020 the engine achieved its first successful ground test on a runway. As of February 2021, GE intends to do more ground tests on the engine and the Denali’s first flight is expected to happen later this year.

In August 2020, Honeywell announced that they had made the first 3D printed aircraft engine part to be certified as flight-critical by the FAA, specifically a bearing housing used in the Garrett ATF-3-6 turbofan engine on the French Navy’s Dassault Falcon 20G. (Unsurprisingly, anything regulators consider flight-critical must always function properly and its use on aircraft must be approved by regulators beforehand.) At the time, Honeywell claimed that it was difficult to source replacement parts for the engine, due to there being so few still used on in-service aircraft, and that the bearing housing was impractically expensive to replace, due to how hard it was to manufacture and how little demand there was for it.

3D printing is an amazing tool. It can grow your small business or start a mini revolution in an industry. Explore what it can do for you when you contact us today.

Disclaimer: Featured image of “Aeroplane Factory 1943” is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work prepared by an officer or employee of the United States Government as part of that person’s official duties under the terms of Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105 of the US Code.