Materialise and Proponent to offer one-stop-shop aftermarket 3D printed parts to aerospace sector

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3D printing software developer Materialise has teamed up with leading aircraft parts distributor Proponent to “transform” the aerospace aftermarket supply chain. 

The agreement will see the two companies partner with aerospace OEMs and suppliers to enable them to deliver a one-stop-shop offering for aftermarket parts to airlines and maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) firms, some of which will be produced via 3D printing. 

Ultimately, the partnership intends to aid aerospace OEMS to access the benefits of 3D printing, with the end goal of creating a digital supply chain that facilitates on-demand manufacturing. 

“Open solutions and a collaborative approach have always been crucial to Materialise,” said Bart Van der Schueren, Materialise CTO. “Today we are excited to combine our capabilities as an EASA 21.G-certified production organization with Proponent’s reach and central position in the aerospace supply chain.

“This brings 3D printing technology right in the comfort zone of the aerospace industry’s well-established supply chains.”

Materialise has previously worked with aerospace design firm Expleo to design a 3D-printed part that reinforced vulnerable zones in the Boeing 737 dado panel. Photo via Materialise.
Materialise has previously worked with aerospace design firm Expleo to design a 3D-printed part that reinforced vulnerable zones in the Boeing 737 dado panel. Photo via Materialise.

Materialise aerospace 3D printing

Materialise has been active in the aerospace for some time, having gained aerospace certification for plastic parts 3D printed at its Leuven facility back in 2015. The company first started to 3D print parts for aerospace firm Airbus several years ago, when FDM technology made its debut on the A350 aircraft.

Today, Materialise now prints around 100 different flight-ready parts for the A350, accumulating to some 26,000 parts annually across the entire A350 fleet. In June, Materialise became the first to be qualified to produce flight-ready polymer components for Airbus using SLS 3D printing technology. With this, Materialise is gearing up to 3D print end-use parts for Airbus’ other aircraft, including the A320, A330, and A340.

Materialise is also a member of the Additive Manufacturer Green Trade Association (AMGTA), which recently launched its latest research project – a life-cycle assessment comparing the environmental effects of a 3D printed aerospace part to one that has been traditionally manufactured.

Interior view of the Airbus spacer panels. Photo via Materialise.
Interior view of the 3D printed Airbus spacer panels. Photo via Materialise.

The Materialise-Proponent combo

Proponent provides distribution and inventory management services to airlines, MROs and OEMs, shipping 54 million parts per year to more than 6,000 aerospace customers around the world. The majority of these parts serve the aftermarket, and range from cabin interiors and engines to airframes and cockpits. 

Materialise and Proponent’s partnership is seeking to raise the profile of 3D printing within aerospace aftermarket supply chains by partnering with aerospace OEMs and suppliers and helping them realize the benefits of 3D printing. 

Through this, the partners hope to offer airlines and MROs a one-stop-shop offering for aftermarket parts produced by 3D printing and other manufacturing technologies. 

According to Materialise, this move will bring 3D printing out of the domain of the specialist engineering departments within aerospace firms, and into the procurement domain. As a result, the technology will become more accessible to MROs looking to source 3D printed parts.

“3D printing represents an opportunity to help our OEM and supplier partners to become more efficient in their supply chains and complements our stocking distribution model,” said Andrew Todhunter, Proponent CEO. “Producing customized parts or small production runs through AM gives us an opportunity to source on-demand, sustainably, and avoid high minimum order quantities.

“Our customers get what they need, when they need it, and OEMs avoid the cost and risks that come with manufacturing these parts.”

A 3D printed housing with integrated snap-fit mechanism, by 328 Support Services. Photo via Materialise.
A 3D printed housing with integrated snap-fit mechanism, by 328 Support Services. Photo via Materialise.

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Featured image shows Materialise has previously worked with aerospace design firm Expleo to design a 3D-printed part that reinforced vulnerable zones in the Boeing 737 dado panel. Photo via Materialise.




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