Slowly but surely 3D printing is taking over manufacturing. It’s faster, cheaper, more efficient and bespoke. But until now something as important as an aircraft engine hasn’t been on the list of 3D printed kit.
Rolls-Royce plans to take 3D printing to the next level by using it to manufacture parts for its engines. This will push the accuracy of 3D printing to new levels as there can be no margin for even the smallest of errors.
By 3D printing the parts the process will be much faster and also easier for making more lightweight components. At this stage the company will be testing the parts and is still a few years off putting them into use. Dr Henner Wapenhans, the company’s head of technology, said 3D printing :opens up new possibilities, new design space".
"Through the 3D printing process, you’re not constrained by having to get a tool to create a shape. You can create any shape you like.”
The parts Rolls-Royce plans to begin with are brackets and fuel nozzles which can be made much lighter thanks to the way 3D printing builds up construction layer by layer. It’s early days still but with faster production and greater accuracy with metals and ceramics, this is just the beginning.