Which additive manufacturing technology to use for each aerospace application?

Why is the aerospace industry an early adopter of metal additive manufacturing?

Metal additive manufacturing technologies, specifically selective laser melting, allow achieving the levels of certification required to manufacture complex parts that cannot be machined and that improve the performance and functionality of the component. When it comes to structural parts with high mechanical demands, only SLM technology offers engineers design freedom to consolidate parts, and to reduce weight and cost. Ultimately, it is the technology that enables strategic decisions to be made where they are needed.

The advantages of additive manufacturing

In the aerospace sector, 3D printing offers advantages and benefits that would be impossible using traditional manufacturing technologies.



The topological optimization of the parts allows them to be manufactured solely and exclusively with the required amount of material. This makes it possible to produce structures up to 50% lighter.



It is no longer necessary to manufacture a complex part exploded into smaller, easy-to-machine elements. We can directly produce the part, in one go, avoiding costly and time-consuming assembly processes and unnecessary quality control.



Additive manufacturing is the leading technology in on-demand manufacturing. We can shorten innovation cycles and reduce the need for storage, achieving more advanced solutions, earlier and with a lower supply cost.

Some usage examples

Whether you want to produce just one part, or a complete series, SLM technology is capable of meeting all the needs of the modern aerospace industry. Learn more about the many manufacturing possibilities using selective laser melting in the aerospace industry.

Machine: SLM®125: SLM®800
Material: Titanium

Main Fitting of a Bizjet from Safran

In a joint project, Safran Landing Systems and SLM Solutions tested Selective Laser Melting to produce a component of a nose landing gear for a bizjet. A world first for a part of this size. The objective of the project is to demonstrate the feasibility to produce a main fitting by Selective Laser Melting process. The component was therefore redesigned for metal-based additive manufacturing allowing time saving in the whole process, and significant weight reduction about 15% of the component.

Machine: SLM®125: SLM®280
Material: IN718

Monolithic Thrust Chamber – Cell Core GmbH

The Monolithic Thrust Chamber of CellCore GmbH has an improved functional cooling due to an innovative lattice structure, which also increases stability. It is highly efficient and minimizes individual process steps while combining multiple parts into a single component; production time reduced from months to days. 

Machine: SLM®125: SLM®280 Twin
Material: Ti6Al4V

Gooseneck Kueger Flap Actuation Bracket – Asco Industries

Through additive manufacturing, there was 31% weight savings and a shortened total assembly time. It integrates three parts into one to reduce assembly and has an improved buy-to-fly ratio from 17 minimized to 1.5.
The build time was shortened by 42% using a SLM®280 Twin, compared to single-laser machines. 

Other technologies and applications

Of course, the aerospace industry is not just about manufacturing the final part and the benefits achieved by lightening it or shortening innovation cycles. As in any other manufacturing industry with a high R&D component, there are other applications where additive manufacturing is extraordinarily useful and beneficial.

In the innovation phase, where proofs of concept or mockups are needed to validate new designs, the photopolymer  technologies are used to create models faithful to the ideas conceived.

Already in development, where these ideas must be tested and their feasibility studied both at a structural level and the ability to be produced, new product engineering requires the use of prototypes. In this case, depending on the part to be studied, these prototypes will be made of metal or plastic and, therefore, will use metal additive manufacturing technologies or photopolymer technologies to produce plastic parts.

For the creation of tools, within the final part manufacturing process, we tend to use photopolymer technologies for rapid tooling, but when we need said tool to have very demanding mechanical, thermal or chemical properties, we will use Fiber technology, that is, High-strength composites reinforced, in addition, with continuous fibers (normally, continuous carbon fiber). Of course, sometimes there is no other material that works for us and we will need to make our tooling in H13 steel or similar, for which we will use SLM or BMD technology, depending on the size and requirements of the part.

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