Dubai-based airline Emirates is trialling the use of 3D printing to manufacture components for cabins.
The airline has been working with US company 3D Systems to use selective laser sintering (SLS) to print video monitor shrouds for its fleet.
Emirates is also trialling 3D printing air vent grills for planes.
SLS involves heating layers of powder until it coalesces without reaching the stage of liquefaction. Unlike fused deposition modelling, it doesn’t require support material, which can allow the creation of more complex shapes.
Emirates said that the use of SLS also helps reduce the weight of printed components; the video shrouds produced with SLS weighed between 9 per cent 13 per cent less than traditionally manufactured or FDM produced components.
SLS also allows multiple components to be produced simultaneously, reducing production times and wasted materials.
The airline said that the use of 3D-printed components could reduce fuel emissions across its fleet thanks to the reduction in weight.
The airline has been working with French company UUDS on European Aviation Safety Agency certification for the parts.
The video monitor shrouds will be installed on select aircraft after receiving EASA certification for airworthiness.
“Over the last two years Emirates Engineering has been actively exploring 3D printing for aircraft cabin parts as it is a transformational technology that can be used to achieve an increase in efficiency and productivity,” said Ahmed Safa, Emirates senior vice president – engineering support services.
“We worked with a number of suppliers to develop prototypes of 3D printed cabin parts but ultimately decided on working with 3D Systems and UUDS,” Safa said in a statement.
“The technology we use has the potential to deliver cabin parts with reduced weight without compromising on structural integrity or cosmetic appeal.”