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Airbus Helicopters officially opens 3D printing centre in Germany

Metal and polymer AM systems to be used for prototyping and production of electric next gen systems

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A few weeks ago VoxelMatters revealed how Airbus Helicopters is using TRUMPF technology for its metal 3D printing requirements. The aircraft OEM has now officially inaugurated its 3D printing center where the TRUMPF systems have been installed. The 3D printing center is located at its Donauwörth site, significantly expanding its in-house capacity for this innovative process.

Airbus Helicopters now operates three machines for components made of titanium, four for plastic parts and, as a new element, a machine that can produce components made of aluminium. The AM processes offer Airbus several benefits compared to conventional manufacturing and, most importantly, are being used for serial production as well as for components for prototypes such as the electrically powered CityAirbus NextGen and the experimental high-speed helicopter, Racer.

Airbus Helicopters officially opens 3D printing centre in Germany for prototyping and production of electric next gen systems
The CityAirbus NextGen electrically powered city taxi will integrate 3D printed parts.

“Our extensive capabilities in this process along the manufacturing chain are a real competitive advantage,” said Stefan Thomé, Managing Director of Airbus Helicopters in Germany. “Among other advantages, 3D printing can reduce the weight of aircraft components which leads to less fuel consumption. Such potential can bring financial benefits and contribute to reducing CO2 emissions during operations.”

Other advantages of 3D printing include a significant increase in resource efficiency in the manufacturing process and high flexibility. Components with new configurations can be printed as individual pieces or in small series for testing purposes. This also makes the process appealing for building prototypes. While conventional machining involves milling components out of solid blocks, additive layer printing uses laser beams to melt metal or plastic powders.

In this way, the desired shapes are created layer by layer. This makes it easier to produce complex structures than with conventional methods. A conventional manufacturing process requires up to ten times more raw material than the final product, whereas additive manufacturing requires only 1.5 times as much.

Since 2017, Airbus Helicopters has mass-produced more than 9,400 locking shafts for the doors of the Airbus A350, using the additive process as part of the Donauwörth-based airplane door business. Eleven tonnes of titanium powder have been used in Donauwörth for printing the locking shafts.

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Davide Sher

Since 2002, Davide has built up extensive experience as a technology journalist, market analyst and consultant for the additive manufacturing industry. Born in Milan, Italy, he spent 12 years in the United States, where he completed his studies at SUNY USB. As a journalist covering the tech and videogame industry for over 10 years, he began covering the AM industry in 2013, first as an international journalist and subsequently as a market analyst, focusing on the additive manufacturing industry and relative vertical markets. In 2016 he co-founded London-based VoxelMatters. Today the company publishes the leading news and insights websites VoxelMatters.com and Replicatore.it, as well as VoxelMatters Directory, the largest global directory of companies in the additive manufacturing industry.

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