AUCKLAND, New Zealand -- Air New Zealand is expanding its use of 3D printing with the goal of streamlining the maintenance, repair and overhaul of cabin components.
The airline first started using 3D printing in 2016, manufacturing small parts for things such as in-flight entertainment screens. Now, however, it is working with New Zealand-based company Zenith Tecnica and GE Additive-owned Arcam EBM to explore printing using materials like titanium through a technology called electron beam melting.
"While we are in the initial stages of working with these companies on 3D printing, so far we have printed prototype metal framing for our business premier cabin to quickly test new concepts and ideas," said Bruce Parton, Chief Operations Officer. "Aircraft interiors are made up of tens of thousands of parts, and the ability to 3D print on-demand lightweight parts we only require a small number of, rather than rely on traditional manufacturing methods is of a huge benefit to our business, without compromising safety, strength or durability."
In addition to Zenith Tecnica, Air New Zealand said it is also working with Auckland University, Victoria University of Wellington, ST Engineering Aerospace and other companies to further its use of 3D applications. Most recently, the company said it has started incorporating a 3D laser scanner to create designs for parts, tools and interior modeling.
"This is a good project to demonstrate the strength, versatility and utility of titanium 3D printed parts for aircraft applications, and it's very exciting to be working alongside Air New Zealand on this journey," said Martyn Newby, managing director at Zenith Tecnica. "We are in a very good position to support the local adoption of 3D printing for aviation applications, and welcome Air New Zealand's enthusiasm to embrace this emerging technology and help take it to the mainstream."