Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group is now using 3D printing technology from Stratasys to manufacture, flight-ready parts for several of its military, civil and business aircraft — while producing specific ground-running equipment at a lower cost than aluminum alternatives. The company is currently one of the world’s largest privately owned and independent aerospace and defense companies.
Marshall already has several pieces of 3D-printed ductwork flying on heavily modified aircraft, as well as holders for safety knives and switches for aircraft interiors. 3D printing flight-approved parts on demand enables the company to produce lighter parts than traditional methods, significantly faster and at lower cost.
According to Chris Botting, Materials, Processes and Additive Manufacturing Engineer at Marshall ADG, the ability to create accurate, repeatable and reliable 3D printed parts using aerospace-approved materials are key factors in achieving the performance requirements necessary for use within aircraft.
“When manufacturing on complex engineering programs, we need a method that can create an accurate, complex, functional and lightweight duct efficiently with minimal tooling costs – this is where 3D printing fits perfectly. But we also need to ensure that the ducting work produced will be approved by the EASA [European Union Aviation Safety Agency] for flight,” explains Botting. “As a result, we’re using the Stratasys Fortus 450mcFDM Printer and Ultem 9085 [polyetherimide] resin – a tough, yet lightweight 3D printing material with high thermal and chemical resistance. This has been crucial to overcoming the stringent requirements of our industry, as we can now 3D print parts with the desired flame, smoke and toxicity properties for use on aircraft interiors.”
The company is also utilizing its Fortus 450mc 3D printer, purchased from Stratasys UK to build final parts on the ground.