Aircraft Industry to Get a Boost from 3D Printing

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Aircraft manufacturers have used 3D printing in prototyping and product development for a long time. In addition, the FAA just approved the first 3D printed part for direct use in airplanes.

However, the airline industry lags behind many others in its adoption of and benefits from this technology. That’s about to change if one company has its way.

New 3D printed aircraft seats are on the horizon that could help airlines push down costs, resulting in better profitability and possibly lower airfare for consumers.

SABIC to the Rescue

The drive to reduce costs is significant in the aviation industry. Between plummeting ticket sales, increasing fuel costs and aging aircraft fleets, airlines definitely face an uphill battle.

SABIC might have at least part of the solution. The company recently debuted 3D printed economy class seats that offer comfort, durability and light weight, all at a lower cost than what’s available conventionally.

The new seats were showcased at the 2015 Aircraft Interiors Expo in Germany, and judging by the reception, this technology is going to be a huge hit. For clarification, SABIC is not a 3D printing company.

In fact, it’s the second largest chemical company in the world. The 3D printed seat in question was created by Stratasys, utilizing one of SABIC’s next generation plastics.

Currently, the manufacturer has developed a wide range of new options that are ideal for a number of different uses, but are particularly well suited for aviation needs. The seat that drew so much attention at the expo was created with ULTEM 9085 resin, and it is made of fewer than 15 different components.

Compare that to conventional seats, which can have dozens of different parts, and you begin to see the benefits here.

It’s not all about cutting weight, though. The new seat design also offers better aesthetics, as well as comfort for passengers. The plastic used (ULTEM 9085 resin) is toxicity compliant, and offers low moisture absorption, making this an ideal option for 3D printing on commercial scales.

The new range of materials offered by SABIC is just one part of the company’s shift. According to a company spokesperson, “Our customers have told us that they are interested in a total solution that goes beyond providing a material.

Historically, that has been our approach – to look at each customer’s need, and bring our years of global experience, including solutions that have worked for other industries, to the table.” So, this could just be the beginning of a new range of options from SABIC that offer customized solutions to a range of client, needs, including the aviation industry.

This is just one more example of not only how widespread 3D printing is becoming, but the benefits this technology can offer virtually every industry on the planet. And it benefits more than just company profit margins – it promises to deliver a better, less costly experience for consumers as well.

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