Emirates has announced it has used cutting-edge 3D printing technology to manufacture components for its aircraft cabins.
The Dubai-based airline said it has been working with 3D Systems; a US based 3D printing manufacturer, and UUDS, a French engineering company, to print video monitoring shrouds and air vent grills for its fleet.
It said the two components have been created using selective laser sintering (SLS)—a new 3D printing technique, which uses lasers to bind powdered plastic together into the required 3D model.
It added that the material used to print Emirates’ video monitor shrouds is a new thermoplastic developed by 3D Systems, called Duraform ProX FR1200, which has flame resistant properties and a surface quality suitable for commercial aerospace business operations.
Ahmed Safa, Emirates senior vice president of engineering support services, said among the advantages of SLS is the reduced weight of printed components as well as their strength.
The video monitor shrouds weigh 9%-13% less than components manufactured traditionally or through the 3D printing techniques that are traditionally used in the aviation sector, which could potentially reduce fuel emissions and costs for the airline.
He said with the SLS technique it was possible to print more than one component at a time when compared with other 3D printing methods, which has led to quicker per-part production times and less wastage of raw materials in production.
“Over the last two years, Emirates Engineering has been actively exploring 3D printing for aircraft cabin parts as it is a transformational technology that can be used to achieve an increase in efficiency and productivity,” he said.
“We worked with a number of suppliers to develop prototypes of 3D printed cabin parts but ultimately decided on working with 3D Systems and UUDS. The technology we use has the potential to deliver cabin parts with reduced weight without compromising on structural integrity or cosmetic appeal.”
The airline said the video monitor shrouds had undergone a range of structural, durability, flammability and chemical tests and would be installed on select aircrafts, before being tracked for data collection as part of tests for on-board durability and wear and tear over a few months.
The 3D printed aircraft cabin air vents grills have already been installed on aircraft for on-board trails in late October.
Emirates said the new partnership would also help make inventory management more efficient, as it would no longer have to hold a large inventory of spare components or wait long periods for replacements.
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