But why is 3D printing so important? Weight reduction is the holy grail of aerospace engineering: Every kilogram saved prevents 25 tons of COemissions during the lifespan of an aircraft. Parts produced by additive layer manufacturing (ALM), also known as 3D printing, weigh up to 55 per cent less while reducing raw material used by up to 90 per cent. Decarbonisation is the reason why the aerospace industry and Airbus are leading the charge in 3D printing. The speed at which these parts can be manufactured through 3D printing gives less overstock and overhead when creating these customized pieces.

Direct production with Additive Manufacturing had a crucial benefit for Airbus: the lead time. For small-batch series and customized parts, additive technologies offer a drastically faster time-to-market than conventional manufacturing as prior tool-production is not required.

The panels are Airbus’ first cabin parts with full bionic design certification, a successful result of Airbus’ ongoing efforts to optimize part weight. Compared with the original design, intended for conventional production methods, the 3D-printed panels are 15% lighter. In conventional manufacturing, additional complexity would mean higher  cost. However, with 3D Printing, complex internal structures like lattices do not create additional cost. Airbus was therefore able to realize lightweight bionic panels and achieve the optimal mass for the component.

The progress made by the aerospace industry highlights the technology’s potential for manufacturing in the EU. With one caveat: Assuming that Europe can quickly build on its technological leadership in this exciting new area.