Airbus Embraces Ecological Benefits with the Word’s First 3D Printed Aircraft

Airbus, the European aerospace agency unveiled the world’s first 3D printed aircraft at the Berlin air show early in June of this year. The small plane Thor, which is short for “test of High-tech Objectives in Reality” resembles a model plane, with its windowless frame, white walls, and light weight. With this aircraft, Airbus has opened a door to a new realm to 3D printing that is cost effective as it requires no tools and yields close to nothing in manufacturing waste. 3D printing is also time and fuel efficient as parts can be made quickly and lighter than ever before. Gunnar Haase, the chief engineer for this project stated that Thor is stable when it flies. The only parts of the plane that are not printed are its electrical components.

Airbus and Boeing are two other large name manufacturers that already use 3D printing to make jet parts for their passenger jets. The next step for 3D printing is space. The European Space Agency (ESA) has planned to launch their Ariane 6 rocket by the year 2020. The rocket will feature many 3-D printed parts, that could cut the cost of manufacturing it in half.

Incorporating 3D printing is also a way for the industry to go green. Some of the ecological benefits to manufacturing lighter jets through 3D printing include using less fuel and less pollutants emitted. While air traffic is projected to double in the next two decades, this technical innovation is sure to reduce carbon emission in the aviation industry.

Bitkom, a German high-tech federation conducted a survey of 102 industry members that show their confidence in the benefits to 3D printing. 70% of the participants have confidence that spare aircraft parts will be printed at airports, and 51% of the participants believe whole planes will be made by 3D printing.

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