The Airbus A350 XWB is now the airliner with the most 3D-printed parts on the aviation market.
Over 1,000 of the A350 XWB's parts were created through the process of 3D printing instead of being manufactured in the traditional way. This is a historic first for an airliner that has benefited from the large-scale use of a technology hitherto used mainly for military aircraft. This technological shift was made possible thanks to the dazzling advances of 3D printing in recent years.
American-Israeli company Stratasys, a world leader in the industry, printed up the aircraft's parts. They were 3D-printed with "ULTEM 9085" resin, a thermoplastic certified to meet Airbus' requirements. Besides its excellent weight/resistance ratio, this material which meets flammability, smoke and toxicity (FST) standards also fully meets safety regulations.
Using this material provides benefits resulting from the lightness of the parts, their resistance, , manufacturing costs and production times.
"We are able to produce aircraft parts that are 30 to 55% lighter, while reducing the amount of raw materials used by 90%." stated Peter Sander, Head of Emerging Technologies at Airbus. "This technology is clearly a game-changer, as it also reduces total energy expenditure in production by almost 90% as compared to traditional methods."