A South Africa based company called Aerosud is working hard on realizing the world’s fastest and largest prototype 3D printer. The printer will use powdered titanium to make aircraft components as part of a programme to accelerate development of efficient manufacturing of high-value components.
For building this prototype, Aerosud combined their forces with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s (CSIR’s) National Laser Centre. They already have an existing joint venture where this will be an extension of – known as Aeroswift.
Components manufactured by this 3D printer would make energy-intensive, wasteful processes like machining obsolete and could save millions for original equipment manufacturers such as airlines.
Wouter Gerber (Aerosud’s programme leader for process development) said that this particular printer will be ten times faster than any equivalent printer available. Marius Vermeulen, one of Aerosuds engineers, claims that the components produced by this printer can be as much as 46 times larger than any other metal 3D printer is able to produce.
The big news is that Airbus announced yesterday that they will join the project to test the prototype’s ability to fabricate large, complex aerospace components. Airbus’s introduction as a partner is an important development for the project, as it will allow the programme to test the viability of components for inclusion in aircraft production in future.
As Forbes reported about two months ago, the company’s Bastian Schafer has been working on a new concept plane for the last two years with other Airbus designers — one that would largely be “printed” using a hangar-sized 3D printer. “It would have to be about 80 by 80 meters,” he told Forbes, adding that such a thing “could be feasible.” According to Schafer, 3D printing could not only lead to some significant cost savings, but also allow for parts that are 65 percent lighter than those made with traditional manufacturing methods. Naturally, the concept plane itself is also a showpiece for a raft of other new technologies, including a transparent wall membrane, a 100 percent recyclable cabin, and “morphing” seats that could harvest body heat from passengers.
As it seems now, Airbus has found its partner to potentially realize this project. This video shows you what the concept plain looks like.