Etihad, Partners Seek To Ramp Up 3D Printing Capability

787 outside Etihad Engineering hangar
Credit: Etihad Engineering

Etihad Airways’ engineering arm plans to team up with two specialists in 3D printing to research the possibility of applying the technique to serial production of cabin components.

Etihad Engineering will cooperate with Baltic3D, a Latvia-based 3D printing services provider and EOS, a German company that provides what it calls responsible manufacturing solutions using industrial 3D printing technology.

Etihad Engineering, the largest commercial aircraft MRO provider in the Middle East, has used 3D printing–sometimes referred to as additive manufacturing (AM)–for some years to produce small-scale cabin components in-house. The company has found that it can create parts considerably less expensively than buying components from external suppliers.

The organization is the first MRO airline in the Middle East to receive EASA approval to design, produce and certify 3D-printed cabin parts, Etihad Engineering’s acting VP of design, engineering and innovation Ahmad Rajei said.

Baltic3D has selected EOS’s Laser Sintering (LS) technology, following the demonstration of the latter company’s capabilities in using its technology and materials for aerospace applications. 

Etihad Engineering will be supporting the joint R&D efforts by conducting flammability testing at its Abu Dhabi flammability laboratory and providing analysis and feedback on the designs and prototypes produced by the project. 

This will be followed by the creation of several prototypes of aircraft interior part designs. 

“From part design to the end part manufacturing and certification, the aviation supply chain has been heavily hit by COVID-19,” Baltic3D co-founder and board member Jānis Jātnieks said. “With this R&D project we aim to significantly reduce the time and money for design [that] organizations and OEMs have to invest to add additive manufacturing as [an] additional manufacturing route to existing production, or even to completely switch to complex parts production using AM ... Our plan is to establish a comprehensive test and manufacturing data set that would help aerospace engineers develop part designs for AM with high level of confidence.”

“Over the last few years, we have managed to fully qualify our technology—meaning qualified materials, processes and systems—for the aerospace world,” EOS SVP of Europe Middle East and Africa Markus Glasser said. “Aerospace demands reliable data, which is the primary aim of this project, and thereby we firmly believe that this project will substantially accelerate the adoption of AM in aerospace ... Baltic3D intends to increase the access of 3D printing know-how and test results to make adoption of industrial 3D printing faster and easier for any aviation company.” 

Alan Dron

Based in London, Alan is Europe & Middle East correspondent at Air Transport World.