Sadly, 3D printing hasn’t quite obtained the level of popularity or even commercial appeal that had initially been predicted yet. After all, it was supposed to be possible to do virtually anything from ordering a new outfit to printing a meal for 50 dinner guests in a flash – and all that there is to show for the industry is a bunch of novelty trinkets so far. However, Airbus recently revealed that it has managed to 3D print a complete plane that is even able to fly.
Changing Industry as We Know It
Although 3D printing is not yet as popular as predicted, this technology has started to have an effect on the way in which numerous industries are thinking about manufacturing, from clothing to medical supplies to virtually anything else tangible.
If 3D printing makes it possible to create complete products on a single machine as effectively as on a full production line, without having to rely on human intervention or even robots to help assemble them, it is possible that this technology could be responsible for the “next industrial revolution.”
Experimenting with Aviation
Airbus, one of the largest manufacturers of planes in the world, is currently experimenting with what the future of the aviation industry could look like if 3D printing is introduced to it. The company unveiled THOR (Test of High-Tech Objectives in Reality) at a Berlin air show recently. This is a 13-foot plane that has been created entirely from 3D printed components, and it is a proof-of-concept that it is possible to build something that flies – and not just a small drone. The 3D printed plane weighs in at approximately 50 pounds and only took four weeks to print and assemble. Its body is shaped in much the same way as a miniature commercial airliner and comprises of a few components.
Airbus Already Using 3D Printed Parts
According to an industry publication, 3D Print, Airbus is already using 3D printed components in its planes, with the A350 XWB containing more than 1,000 3D printed parts in a range of materials on board. In 2015, GE showcased a 3D printed jet engine that actually fires as well. In a document that was shared by Airbus with Quartz, the company expressed interest in exploring the new material properties that this type of printing is able to generate – especially when it comes to allowing engineers to create new structures that currently cannot be created with any currently used manufacturing techniques.
While it is expected that future 3D printing designs could take much of their inspiration from biological forms, for now, Airbus’s latest triumph is just a small plane that was fairly easy to construct. It could take quite a while before entire commercial planes are built completely by 3D printers, never mind at the push of just 1 button. However, it seems relatively safe to say that in the aviation industry, 3D printing may just be starting to take off (pun intended).