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Mr. Sebastian Webel
Mr. Sebastian Webel

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Pictures of the Future
The Magazine for Research and Innovation
 

Additive Manufacturing

Taking to the Skies

3D printing is ready for takeoff: In the future, additive manufacturing is expected to establish itself more and more firmly in the aerospace industry. Etihad Airways has already ordered its first 3D-printed components. This photo shows an Etihad Airbus A330-343 in Frankfurt am Main.

Thanks to Siemens, additive manufacturing is already being used in many areas, ranging from burner tips for gas turbines and armrests for streetcars to terminal boxes for the high-speed trains operated by the Deutsche Bahn railroad company. Now it’s the aviation industry’s turn. Together with aircraft parts manufacturer Strata Siemens printed the first components for Etihad passenger planes.

In a passenger plane, all the parts of the cabin equipment have to fit together perfectly. But until now, the monitor shrouds on Etihad Airways planes did not match without some reworking — and that meant lots of work for Etihad.

Siemens Middle East supported the aircraft parts manufacturer Strata with technological know-how and consulting for the production of monitor shrouds using 3D printing technology. In this process, which is also known as additive manufacturing, components are built up layer by layer (additively) on the basis of 3D design data, using plastics, metals, and other materials.

A look inside the cabin: The interior of an Etihad Boeing 777-300.

New Challenges

This was the first time that Siemens provided support to a customer that is producing additively manufactured components for the aviation sector. This poses a challenge: “Before the monitor shroud could be installed, it had to be approved by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA),” explains Assem Khalaili, who heads Siemens’ Industry Customer Services for the Middle East. “We didn’t have a process for this certification at Siemens, but fortunately we were able to draw upon experience from our Mobility business. Components for rail systems also have to be certified in the highest protection class, which is comparable to that of the monitor shrouds.”

Siemens’ contract with Strata was born as a result of the willingness of the company’s Divisions to share their experience. Power Generation Services was the first Division to use 3D printing to produce burner tips for gas turbines. Its experts passed their knowledge on to the company’s Mobility Customer Services, which today uses the technology to manufacture components for the rail industry. This collaboration led to the development of Siemens’ in-house Industrialization of Additive Manufacturing program, in which the Divisions and Corporate Technology work together to advance additive manufacturing.

When Strata found out about this initiative, it asked Siemens for support with the additive manufacturing of Etihad’s components. That was the moment, when additive manufacturing technology officially began to fly high. 

Ursula Derichs
Picture credits: from top: 1. picture imago, 4. gettyimages