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3D printing for aerospace and aviation

2023-05-25 12:09

3D printing for aerospace and aviation


3D printing is very suitable for many prototyping and end-use applications in the aerospace and aviation industries. Parts produced through additive manufacturing can be stronger and lighter than parts produced using traditional manufacturing.

The Application of 3D Printing in Aerospace Design Workflow

Designers and engineers who create new products in the aerospace industry can achieve 3D printing at various stages of the design workflow.


Design communication

The design of the aerospace industry usually starts with presenting conceptual models of aircraft components. These are also frequently used for aerodynamic testing, which is crucial for aerospace. An accurate model can clearly convey the design intent and showcase the overall form of the concept.



Prototyping using 3D printing is now common in the aerospace industry. There is a 3D printing process suitable for every prototype production requirement, from full size landing gear shells quickly printed using low-cost FDM to high detail, full color control panel concept models. The engineering materials for 3D printing also allow for comprehensive testing and verification of prototype performance.

Pre production

One of the most disruptive and valuable areas of 3D printing is the production of low-cost fast tools for injection molding, thermoforming, fixtures, and fixtures. In the aerospace industry, this allows for the rapid manufacturing of tools at low cost, which can then be used to produce low to medium operating parts. This verification reduces the risk of investing in high-cost tools during the production phase.



The production volume of the aerospace industry can reach over 70000 parts per year, so 3D printing was mainly used as a prototype design solution in the past, rather than the manufacturing of end-use parts.

Nowadays, improvements in the size, printing speed, and available materials of industrial printers have made 3D printing a viable choice for more medium-sized production, especially in high-end indoor buildings.

How is 3D printing used in aerospace engineering?


Jigs and Fixtures

Some more common 3D printing applications, including fixtures and fixture production, have significant benefits. For each aircraft, the company has hundreds of 3D printed fixtures, guides, templates, and instruments, which typically reduce costs and delivery times by 60% to 90% compared to other manufacturing processes.



Surrogates are placeholder parts that are used throughout production, representing components which will be installed in final assemblies.


Installation bracket

3D printing is commonly used to manufacture structural, low volume metal supports and install complex life-saving systems onto the inner walls of aircraft.