Additive Manufacturing in Aerospace: Three Reasons to Adopt 3D Printing

| The Essentium Team

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3D Printing for the Aerospace Industry

When most people hear aerospace, they visualize high-powered jet fighters screaming across the sky. Top gun dogfights and firing missiles at enemy targets with deadly precision. But when it comes to 3D printing, the aerospace industry is much more than that. It encompasses large commercial airlines, smaller aircraft manufacturers, and equipment and maintenance providers in addition to defense customers and government contractors. There are many flight-worthy as well as ground support tooling applications for additive manufacturing in aerospace. But not every instance involves keeping military aircraft combat-ready.

In fact, most of the applications best suited for additive manufacturing in aerospace today relate to the production of tools/molds, jigs and fixtures for non-critical parts and ground use to maintain fleets of aging aircraft. Once a plane is built and delivered, it is the responsibility of the owner to maintain it, whether that customer is a commercial airline, a branch of the US military or a foreign government. Given the size and scope of the investment in an aircraft, and the quality with which it is made, we are now seeing aircraft in service for decades longer than originally intended — both on the commercial and defense sides. How do airlines and governments maintain flight-ready status for the life of its planes? With that question in mind, here are three key advantages 3D printing brings to aerospace:

1. Cure for Obsolescence. An airline or military command may acquire an asset that is twenty or more years old. Perhaps some of the subcontractors that made parts for the plane are no longer in business, the plans for a needed fixture are lost, or a specialized tool broke. 3D printing allows for reverse engineering — the piece can be CAD scanned and a new one printed in a just few hours or overnight to keep the aircraft operational.

2. Safer Materials. Some of the materials used to manufacture aircraft parts decades ago since have been found to be carcinogenic, made from toxic resins and/or release harmful emissions during machining. As fleets age, replacements parts can no longer be made using the same process or materials. Fortunately, a new generation of safe high-strength extrusion materials is available that can withstand the high temperatures and exposure to corrosive agents seen in aerospace environments. 3D printing is ideally suited to making replacement parts and tools without recreating the dangers of the original piece (and with much less waste).

3. Time and Cost Savings. The time and cost to remake a tool or mold for every outdated or broken jig and fixture could keep a plane on the ground for weeks on end. Rather than sourcing replacement parts through the supply chain, if something breaks, it can be quickly printed again in a matter of hours. Rather than paying exorbitant prices for a rush job from a preferred contractor, it can be made in-house, on-demand for pennies on the dollar. Time to part is faster, which keeps planes in the air and costs to a minimum.

These are just a few of the most compelling reasons to integrate 3D printing into your aerospace applications. To realize these advantages and others, Essentium offers the HSE 180•S HT 3D Printer, plus a wide range of materials to meet the demanding performance specifications of defense and commercial aerospace customers.

Click here to request a demonstration of how Essentium and the HSE 180•S HT can help maintain the flight-ready status of your fleet.


Essentium, Inc. provides industrial 3D printing solutions that are disrupting traditional manufacturing processes by bringing product strength and production speed together, at scale, with an open ecosystem and material set. Essentium manufactures and delivers innovative industrial 3D printers and materials enabling the world’s top manufacturers to bridge the gap between 3D printing and machining and embrace the future of additive manufacturing.

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