Aviation history was made on 20 June 2014 when the first 3D-printed metal part, a humble titanium bracket, took to the skies on board a commercial jetliner. Since this first flight on an Airbus test aircraft, the technology has lived up to its potential.
3D technology is now entering the production process. In September 2017, following thorough testing and EASA approval, the first titanium 3D-printed part was installed on a serial production aircraft. This is the first step towards installing additional and more complex 3D-printed parts on Airbus production aircraft, for which they have to meet the highest safety and quality standards.
Since 3D printing can be cheaper, faster and closer to markets than conventional manufacturing, the technology could help bring about a renaissance of manufacturing in the EU.
The progress made by the aerospace industry highlights the technology’s potential for manufacturing in the EU. With one caveat: Assuming that Europe can quickly build on its technological leadership in this exciting new area.