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sts.components.contact.mr.placeholder Dr. Johannes von Karczewski
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sts.components.contact.mr.placeholder Sebastian Webel
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sts.components.contact.mr.placeholder Arthur F. Pease
Mr. Arthur F. Pease

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81739 Munich
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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, and as part of a long-term partnership with the United Arab Emirates, Siemens is printing 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 is now supporting 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.

Looking toward the future: Next, the cooperation partners intend to 3D-print an external component made of metal.

Much More than Monitor Shrouds

Strata and Siemens’ collaboration on monitor shrouds is only the beginning. In addition to working together in this area, the two companies are planning to print a metallic outer part for planes. Siemens’ goal is a successful “customer co-creation” process. In other words, by working together, Siemens and Strata intend to become more competitive by gaining a foothold in this innovative market.

In the future, the United Arab Emirates plan to focus more intensely on digital solutions as a third economic pillar alongside oil production and tourism. The state-owned investment fund Mubadala Development Company and Siemens have already signed a memorandum of understanding to work together toward this goal. 

New Challenges

This is the first time that Siemens has provided support to a customer that is producing additively manufactured components for the aviation sector. This poses a challenge: “Before the monitor shroud can be installed, it must be approved by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA),” explains Assem Khalaili, who heads Siemens’ Industry Customer Services for the Middle East. “We don’t yet have a process for this certification at Siemens, but fortunately we’re 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.”

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

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.

A date has already been set for the components’ launch: The monitor shroud and the metallic outer part will be officially presented in March at the Global Manufacturing and Industrialization Summit Middle East before being installed and used in flight operations. When that happens, additive manufacturing technology will officially be flying high. 

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