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Siemens, UAE's Strata and Etihad Airways unveil first ever 3D printed aircraft interior part

Siemens, Strata, and Etihad Airways Engineering are moving briskly along with their plans for the first ever 3D printed aircraft interior.

Earlier this year, the three companies partnered with the aim of further integrating additive manufacturing into the aerospace industry, with an eye towards improving aircraft designs and structural components.

Now, the three-way partnership has unveiled its first major accomplishment in the project: a 3D printed plastic frame surrounding the media screens on Etihad Airways aircrafts. The new part was showcased during a joint press conference held at the Global Manufacturing and Industrialisation Summit (GMIS) 2017, the world’s first cross-industry forum.

The first aircraft interior part to be designed, certified, and manufactured with 3D printing technology in the Middle East, the landmark part will be manufactured on demand as part of an overarching program that includes training and skills development for UAE citizens.

The monitor frame was selected for the pilot project because of its complexity and specific appearance requirements, say representatives in a press release.

The 3D printed part is ready for immediate usage on Middle East and North African (MENA) airline Etihad Airways.

"This project showcases our joint capabilities in the UAE to design, certify and manufacture parts using the latest technologies,” said Jeff Wilkinson, CEO of Etihad Airways Engineering.

“Its importance cannot be understated, as 3D printing enables high flexibility during design and prototyping and short lead times during production. It opens new possibilities to the industry and inspires our talented engineers to make their ideas become a reality," he added.

Benefits of adapting 3D printing technology for the aerospace industry include faster production of complex and discontinued parts, while enabling design improvements. 3D printing also removes the requirement to design and build tooling for the manufacturing process, facilitating future design updates to be swiftly modelled and printed using existing equipment.

“This technology has the potential to revolutionise the aerospace industry through innovation, while also developing local knowledge and skills,” said Badr Al Olama, CEO of Strata and head of the GMIS organising committee.

“We are extremely proud to announce the successful completion of our pilot project, this is a key step towards our goal of deploying 3D printing technology on live applications.”

The delicate timeframe of manufacturing aircraft parts often presents the biggest challenge, Al Olama noted, explaining that integrating 3D printing into this process would greatly reduce production time. Individual parts that previously took 120 days to manufacture would only require a few days of work, he said.

During the pilot project, Siemens primarily handled the selection of materials, as well as testing and development of the manufacturing process. Etihad Airways Engineering was responsible for the part’s design and certification for use in aviation. Lastly, Strata physically 3D printed the parts in their Al Ain factory, thanks to support by local partners VPS and D2M. Final approval was granted by the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority, GCAA.

With the pilot project now successfully completed, the partners are moving steadily forward. Siemens and Strata next plan to develop a three-year joint roadmap for further industrializing 3D printing in the UAE, Middle East, and North Africa. Siemens has reported the roadmap will include training and skill development for UAE citizens.

Strata will also continue pursuing 3D printing technology in a wide range of aerostructure applications including tooling, fixtures and consumables, using both metallic and non-metallic materials.


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