“Strategic shift” sees Air Works offer aviation 3D printing service

Private aviation repair firm Air Works has partnered with 3D printing bureau Objectify Technologies to offer a joint additive manufacturing-based Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) service. 

Through their collaboration, the firms aim to pursue business opportunities within the MRO of commercial and private jets, and explore the potential of related 3D printing materials and technologies. According to Air Works, the deal marks a “strategic shift” in its approach, that will see it expand on its portfolio in a way that enables it to better meet the needs of aviation, aerospace and defense clients.

“3D printing technologies are fast coming of age and seeing extensive adoption across the manufacturing industry,” said Anand Bhaskar, MD and CEO of Air Works. “Increasingly, even global aviation, aerospace and defense industries are inching towards reaping complete benefits of this emerging technology.”

“We are excited to join hands with Objectify Technologies – a domain specialist and the country’s leading additive manufacturing-engineering services player.”

Featured image shows one of Air Works' aircraft hangars. Photo via Air Works.
Air Works has partnered with Objectify to establish a 3D printing-based aviation MRO offering. Photo via Air Works.

Air Works’ 3D printing shift 

Air Works has essentially partnered with Objectify as a means of expanding on its service portfolio, and using 3D printing to optimize the performance of its core MRO business. In particular, the firm believes that the technology’s “next-gen” material compatibility could allow it to unlock greater customization in the production of its future aerospace parts, sub-parts and assemblies. 

Compared to traditionally-produced components, the firm also views 3D printing as being “suited to on-demand manufacturing,” and an effective means of increasing its throughput while reducing related costs. In practise, the companies’ partnership will see them establish a joint service offering, through which they aim to identify and meet the needs of aircraft owners and operators both at home and abroad. 

Air Works’ role in the new venture will see it ensure that the service remains compliant with civil and defense aviation requirements, while Objectify is set to contribute its design and manufacturing capabilities. In the longer-term the companies’ deal also provides scope for exploring further R&D opportunities, including the development of novel base materials and technologies, as well as entering other industry segments. 

“Our partnership with Objectify Technologies reflects our commitment to always offer the latest and the best- in-class solutions to our customers in the aviation fraternity,” added Bhaskar. “I am confident that this collaboration will benefit the entire spectrum of our customers across business and executive aviation, commercial airlines and the defense sector.”

A prototype automotive engine.
Objectify’s technology has previously found extensive prototyping applications. Photo via Objectify.

India’s lucrative aviation sector

Recent Statista data shows that India is now the world’s fourth-largest commercial air travel market, and as it continues to grow, the task of maintaining the nation’s aircraft fleet also represents an increasingly lucrative business prospect. Given that each plane includes thousands of parts, many of which are flight critical, conducting MRO is indispensable to passenger safety, thus this has created a window of opportunity for the country’s technology firms. 

With a pan-India presence of 27 sites, and a portfolio of line maintenance services that have been certified for repairing more than 50 different planes, Air Works is uniquely well-placed to cash-in on this trend. At present, the firm’s clientele includes both civil (fixed wing + rotary wing) and military customers, as well as global OEMs and commercial airlines. 

Conveniently, Objectify is also based in India, operating out of New Delhi’s industrial quarter, serving similarly high profile aerospace customers such as Collins Aerospace and the Indian Air Force (IAF). As a result, the firms believe that their partnership could now enable them to use their “collective synergies” to optimize their costs, and streamline their businesses at a time when the industry has been stricken by COVID-19. 

“As a pioneer, Air Works occupies a fundamental place in the Indian aviation ecosystem and we are proud and privileged to partner with the country’s leading aviation services provider,” said Ankit Sahu, Director of Objectify Technologies. “Our alliance with Air Works will put us in an enviable position to address the challenges of not just aviation, but also those of the fast-growing aerospace and defense sectors.”

3D printing in aviation MRO 

Additive manufacturing enables the rapid production of durable, lightweight spare parts, thus the technology is increasingly being deployed to help reduce the downtime of commercial aircraft. In Abu Dhabi, for instance, the Etihad Aviation Group, has worked with 3D printer manufacturers EOS and BigRep to open a dedicated MRO 3D printing facility

Back in July 2019, Collins Aerospace announced similar plans to open an MRO aerospace innovation hub in Singapore. Located at the Collins Changi MRO Campus, the facility is the firm’s first 3D printing lab outside the U.S, and it has been set up to conduct extensive R&D using alloys like aluminum, titanium and nickel. 

In more directly militaristic applications, Swedish defense firm Saab has successfully used 3D printing to conduct repairs on its battle-damaged Gripen aircraft. The firm fitted one of its fighter jets with a rapidly additive manufactured external hatch, in a process that could enable its defense-related clientele to improve their battle-readiness in future.  

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Featured image shows one of Air Works’ aircraft hangars. Photo via Air Works.