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3D Printer Makes FAA-Certified Aircraft Parts

It has specialized hardware and software for 3D printing aircraft parts with repeatable mechanical properties.

A new edition of the Fortus 900mc Production 3D Printer is featured in Stratasys' new Aircraft Interiors Certification Solution.
A new edition of the Fortus 900mc Production 3D Printer is featured in Stratasys' new Aircraft Interiors Certification Solution.

Yesterday at the Paris Air Show, Stratasys introduced a new 3D printing solution based on its Fortus 900mc Production 3D Printer for producing aircraft interior parts which meet stringent FAA and EASA certification requirements, the Fortus 900mc Aircraft Interiors Certification Solution (view photos in gallery).

The new solution consists of ULTEM 9085 resin, which is a strong, lightweight thermoplastic meeting aerospace flame, smoke and toxicity (FST) regulations (FAR 25.863), and a new edition of the Fortus 900mc Production 3D Printer with specialized hardware and software designed to deliver highly repeatable mechanical properties.

This solution is now undergoing a qualification program under FAA oversight at the National Center for Advanced Materials Performance (NCAMP), part of the National Institute of Aviation Research (NIAR) at Wichita State University.

Stratasys will assist customers in qualifying the Fortus 900mc Aircraft Interiors Certification Solution for equivalency with the NCAMP statistical dataset. Leveraging this first-of-its-kind NCAMP qualification of a 3D printing process removes complexity from achieving FAA and EASA certification – helping aerospace organizations get more parts certified for flight, faster.

“NIAR has been commissioned to develop the framework that would include polymer additive manufacturing under the NCAMP umbrella. And we have partnered with Stratasys to be the first material for this new process for NCAMP,” said Paul Jonas, Director Technology Development, Special Programs, Wichita State University, National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR).

“The first part that you make has to be equivalent to the hundredth part, to the thousandth part, to the part you make ten years from now in order to be good enough to be certified for the FAA. And that’s what’s so powerful about the NCAMP process.”

The ability to produce parts with repeatable characteristics and consistent quality is a key factor to the increased adoption of 3D printing in the multi-billion dollar aircraft interior parts segment. According to a recent report by the Deloitte University Press entitled 3D Opportunity in Aerospace and Defense, “Additive Manufacturing (AM) providers need to improve existing systems to be able to consistently deliver high-quality parts; only then will AM likely reach its full potential in the A&D industry.”

“Until now, the process of achieving FAA certification for 3D printing has been limiting the adoption of additive manufacturing in aviation. There have been limited specialized solutions and statistical datasets available to support this complex process. With the new Stratasys Fortus 900mc Aircraft Interiors Certification Solution, we are removing major obstacles and making it much easier to 3D print airworthy parts, improving repeatability and performance,” said Scott Sevcik, Head of Aerospace, Defense and Automotive Solutions, Stratasys.

3D printing aircraft interior parts can have key inherent benefits for both supply chain efficiency and for the product offering of aircraft interior manufacturers. With a qualified process for producing 3D printed interior parts, manufacturers can differentiate passenger experience with low-volume, unique elements tailored to end-customer styles or needs as well as design lighter weight components through the efficiency of additive design.

In the Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) segment, the impact on supply chain efficiency is critical to profitability. Airlines and operators keep substantial inventories of spare parts to keep aircraft in service, frequently resulting in decades-long inventory expense on parts that may never be used. By 3D printing certified parts on-demand, airlines and MROs can both reduce inventory and eliminate inventory obsolescence.

The new Stratasys Fortus 900mc Aircraft Interiors Certification Solution provides material and process traceability for compliance with major global airworthiness regulations. The qualification test program is underway now and is planned to be completed by September 2017, with publication of the final NCAMP qualification report to follow.

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