The Airbus A350 XWB jet has more than 1,000 parts 3D-printed with materials that became available for use with the technique only recently, BBC reported, citing Minnesota-based Stratasys, which manufactured the parts. The components, which were used in the first-of-its-type A350 XWB aircraft, were delivered in December.
Experts believe that Airbus took a significant step by opting for 3D printing because new lightweight materials could be useful for airline safety standards, BBC reported, adding that the number of 3D-printed parts on A350 XWB were more than that on any other aircraft before it.
In a statement, Stratasys said it had produced “more than 1,000 flight parts” using its Stratasys FDM 3D Production Systems, which was invented by the company’s founder Scott Crump more than 20 years ago. While the entire process was supervised by Airbus to ensure it met its delivery deadlines, Stratasys said it had also reduced production time and costs, BBC reported.
“From what I can gather it's certainly unprecedented in scale,” BBC quoted James Woodcock, an expert on 3D printing with Rapid News, as saying. “Historically, the use of 3D printed parts has been in military aircraft rather than commercial passenger jets.”
Airbus had announced in March last year that several parts produced with the 3D printing technology would appear on a range of the company’s aircraft, including the new A350 XWB and the in-service jetliners such as the A300/A310 family.
“We are on the cusp of a step-change in weight reduction and efficiency – producing aircraft parts which weight 30 to 55 percent less, while reducing raw material used by 90 percent,” Peter Sander, head of emerging technologies and concepts at Airbus, said at the time. “This game-changing technology also decreases total energy used in production by up to 90 percent compared to traditional methods.”