Air New Zealand plans to make components that will form part of seats in its business-class cabins using 3D printing.
The airline has worked with Auckland University of Technology to manufacture fold-down cocktail trays that form part the seats in what the airline calls “business premiere class”.
Air New Zealand chief operations officer Bruce Parton said: "Not only can't we hold stock of every replacement part we might need, we often only require a small number of units which can be really expensive to produce using traditional manufacturing methods.”
He added that an advantage of 3D printing was that it allows the airline to make cost-effective lightweight parts itself, and to do so quickly without compromising on safety. It also avoids frustrating delays while a replacement part is delivered.
The airline hopes to start installing the trays in its aircraft in coming weeks, pending regulatory approval and is also exploring other opportunities to introduce 3D printing.
"It seems the possibilities are limited only by our imagination," said Parton.
In December 2014, SM reported on a survey which estimated by 2018, half of manufacturers in the consumer, heavy industry and life sciences sectors would use 3D printing.
The survey, by research organisation Gartner, found 60 per cent of the 330 companies surveyed said high acquisition costs had delayed their adoption of the technology.
“While the technology is already in use across a wide range of manufacturing sectors, from medical to aerospace, costs remain the primary concern for buyers," said Pete Basiliere, research director at Gartner.