Thor 3D printed scalable aircraft at Berlin Air Show.
Airbus is no stranger to 3D printing, whether it’s printing motorcycles or designing “bionic” aircraft components with generative technology, the global aeronautics group continues to surprise with innovative examples of 3D printing innovation.
The latest of these examples went on display at the 2016 ILA Berlin Air Show last week where Airbus presented Thor, a flyable test model made almost entirely from 3D printed parts.
With just the two engines and electronics made using traditional methods, the four-metre long demonstrator model features around 50 printed parts, which were all produced in less than six weeks. The additive process significantly reduced development and manufacturing times and saved on both costs and weight.
In addition to this, Airbus subsidiary Premium AEROTEC demonstrated several examples of metal 3D printing in “tomorrow’s materials” such as CFC and GLARE. The supplier is said to be concentrating on the development and manufacture of bionic structural components with metal additive.
Light weighting through 3D printing is a particularly appealing concept for the aerospace industry where weight savings mean a reduction in fuel consumption and costs across an aircraft’s lifetime. This is evident in Airbus’ Bionic Partition designed in collaboration with Autodesk where generative design was used to create the optimum design for a partition wall on a commercial aircraft resulting in a 45% weight saving. Though these projects are currently just demonstrators, Airbus predicts that we could see parts like the partition on the market from as early as 2018. Last year it was reported that Airbus had printed over 1,000 parts for its A350 XWB aircraft.