Emirates VP: Everything in the cabin should be 3D printed

Emirates Airlines has taken the first step in a major overhaul of its supply chain with the introduction of parts manufactured using 3D printers.
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Emirates has for the first time used cutting-edge 3D printing technology to manufacture components for its aircraft cabins.

The airline used Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), a new 3D printing technique to produce video monitor shrouds.

Emirates has worked with 3D Systems, a US based 3D printing equipment and material manufacturer and services provider, and with UUDS, a European aviation Engineering and Certification Office and Services Provider based in France, to successfully print the first batch of 3D printed video monitor shrouds using 3D Systems’ Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) technology platform.

The airline has also 3D printed, received certification for and installed aircraft cabin air vent grills for on-board trials in its first class cabins.

SLS uses lasers to bind together powdered plastic into the required shape defined by a 3D model and is different from the Fusion Deposition Modelling (FDM) technique normally used for printing aircraft 3D parts.

The material used to print Emirates’ Video Monitor Shrouds is a new thermoplastic developed by 3D Systems - Duraform ProX FR1200 - with excellent flammability resistance properties and surface quality suitable for commercial aerospace business applications.

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One of the major advantages of using the SLS technique is the reduced weight of printed components combined with optimisation of the strength of the parts produced.

Video monitor shrouds that are 3D printed using the SLS technique can weigh between 9 and 13% lighter than components manufactured traditionally or through the FDM technique.

This has the potential to lead to significant reductions in fuel emissions and costs when consolidated over the entire fleet of Emirates aircraft.

“Over the last two years Emirates Engineering has been actively exploring 3D printing for aircraft cabin parts as it is a transformational technology that can be used to achieve an increase in efficiency and productivity,” said Ahmed Safa, Emirates senior vice president- Engineering Support Services.

“The technology we use has the potential to deliver cabin parts with reduced weight without compromising on structural integrity or cosmetic appeal,” he added.

On receiving EASA certification the video monitor shrouds will be installed on select aircraft in the Emirates fleet and will be tracked over the following months for data collection as part of tests for on board durability and wear and tear.

Emirates has also worked with UUDS to develop 3D printed aircraft cabin air vent grills that have received EASA certification and have already been installed on aircraft for on-board trials in late October 2017.

“Using 3D printing will also deliver a number of other benefits for Emirates including more efficient inventory management for thousands of aircraft cabin interior components,” says Safa. “With the airline being able to print components on demand within a smaller timeframe, it will no longer have to hold a large inventory of spare components or have to go through long wait times for replacement components.”

Emirates will evaluate the performance and durability of the 3D printed air vent grills and video monitor shrouds before further roll out across its fleet. The airline will also continue to pursue other opportunities for introducing 3D printed components across its operations.

“Everything you see in the cabin should eventually one day be printable,” he added.

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