14 Dec 2015

Is 3D printing the future of the aerospace industry?

3D printing and aerospace defenceAccording to New Scientist, 3D printing is leading the way in the ‘second industrial revolution’.

In recent years the technology has taken off and recently Rolls-Royce unveiled the largest metal part made by 3D printing – a component for a Trent XWB-97 aircraft engine.

With more and more technological innovations being created as a result of 3D printing, this blog from DCI looks at what could be the future of the aerospace industry.


In 2011, engineers at the University of Southampton designed and flew the world’s first 3D printed aircraft.

The craft was built in seven days for a budget of £5000 – a tiny sum considering 3D printing allowed the plane to be built with normally expensive elliptical wings.

The technology is going from strength to strength and, as a result, the UK Government has announced massive investment in 3D printing to help put UK aerospace at the forefront of the industry.

Government investment

This week (22 June) Business Minister Anna Soubry opened new cutting-edge £60m research facilities in Coventry to explore the potential of 3D printing in the aerospace sector.

Aerospace Research Centre and National Centre for Net Shape and Additive Manufacturing in Coventry on 22 June, which is based at the existing Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC).

The MTC is one of nine centres across the UK which is designed to help companies take technologies developed in academic research institutes and bring them to market, and the one in Coventry will now take a special interest in 3D printing.

The new research centre will be used to develop 3D printed components for aircraft engines and landing gear, as well as automotive and medical devices.

Additional aerospace projects

In addition to the new research centre in Coventry, the UK Government awarded four contracts to firms in order to further enhance the UK’s aerospace capabilities, currently second in the world only to the USA.

The projects announced were:

  • £7.2m for Airbus to research ways to remove imperfections on wing surfaces which cause drag – making them ‘slippery’
  • £5m for 5 partners, led by Meggitt, to research how pioneering technologies, such as the Internet of Things, can be applied to aircraft factory production
  • £6.4m for Spirit AeroSystems, the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and Aeromet to research advanced automated assembly technologies – a factory of the future – to improve the cost competitiveness of the UK supply chain.
  • £4.4m to support UTC Aerospace Systems, working with the AMRC, to set up production lines to manufacture high volume, low cost advanced composite products

Learn more: Download the free DCI Industry Insight report on the full Aerospace marketplace

3D industry opportunities

 With the aerospace market booming and new opportunities arising as a result of the growing 3D printing industry, now is the time to ensure that your business is ready to make the most of the opportunities available.

Having visibility of the right opportunities for your business from the start is vital in gaining first-mover competitive advantage, and Defence Contracts International gives you more opportunities, intelligence and support than anyone else.

Our unique content and market intelligence, along with our training and events portfolio, means that DCI does more than help you find contracts – we help you win them too, supporting your business at every stage of the tender process.

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