Commercial air travel is everyday life these days, but little did the Wright Brothers know about the power of their invention just over one hundred years ago. Since then we have sent people to the moon, launched satellites into the orbit and fought wars with powerful military aircrafts. The recent article published by Forbes looks into another interesting transformative era of how we actually make these flying machines in the future.
Companies like General Electric is already investing heavily into 3D printing technology as part of their plans to develop future jet engines, however Airbus is already talking about constructing entire airplanes with large scale 3D printers. Since the inception of the first 3D printers the focus has been on modeling and prototyping, however as the printers become more sophisticated, the future focus is shifting into scalable large objects where the size no longer matters.
Airbus has been developing its 3D printing road map for the past years and is now incorporating this technology in its cabin designs and specific parts that are more lightweight and easy to custom make for each aircraft. Looking further into the future they have adopted a long term strategy where they will increase the number and the size of the 3D printed parts, eventually developing entire fuselages through gigantic printers. This will naturally take time, however we see similar intentions from other industries such as architects who are planning large scale objects with a view to print entire houses in the decades to come.
The challenges that lie ahead are currently related to being able to combine different materials during the manufacturing process as well as developing the new materials that fulfill the needs of the aerospace industry. Equally well as the Wright brothers overcame the first technical obstacles for the first manned flights, it is reasonable to assume that we will develop 3D printing to better cater for the future of flying machines. The very least we can expect it to happen sooner than in the next hundred years.