Friday, 10 August 2018

Air New Zealand ventures into 3D printing of metal aircraft parts

Air New Zealand has teamed up with Zenith Tecnica for 3D printed metal parts for aircraft and tools.

Air New Zealand has confirmed it is working with Zenith Tecnic to work on producing 3D printed metal parts for its aircraft. Zenith Tecnic specialises in the design and manufacture of 3D printed titanium and other metals using a technology called electron beam melting (EBM).

Air New Zealand Chief Operations Officer Bruce Parton says the airline is committed to innovation through 3D printing with new materials. "It's fantastic to be able to team up with and support local operator Zenith Tecnica and work with global company GE Additive to learn and collaborate in this space. While we are in the initial stages of working with these companies on 3D printing."

Aircraft interiors are made up of tens of thousands of parts, and the ability to 3D print on demand lightweight parts for aircraft would save the airline thousands of dollars every year. Zenith Tecnica Managing Director Martyn Newby says "This is a good project to demonstrate the strength, versatility and utility of titanium 3D printed parts for aircraft applications and it's very exciting to be working alongside Air New Zealand."

As a demonstration of what can be done, Zenith Tecnic has designed and 3D printed metal wine aerators for the airline in the shape of an aircraft engine. 

Air New Zealand is also working with others to produce more advanced 3D parts for its aircraft, including engines and avionics Most recently it has been using a 3D laser scanner for creating parts' designs, tool designs and interior modelling.  

3D printed technology is moving at a rapid face and the idea of saving money and time over traditional manufacturing methods, it is no wonder that airlines such as Air New Zealand are both using the technology as well as investigating its further development.  Boeing already uses 3D printed parts in the making of some of its aircraft. The US Air Force apparently uses 3D printed covers for toilets on one of its aircraft, many model aircraft have been made with 3D printing, so it really is only a matter of time before a complete commercial airliner is crafted from nothing other than 3D printed parts.