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British Airways Testing 3D Parts Printing in Effort to Improve Punctuality and Reduce Emissions

British Airways announced Monday that they have launched a pilot program to test the feasibility of 3D printing parts such as tray tables, aircraft windows and flight deck switches.

British Airways Tests 3D Aircraft Parts Printing - Courtesy British Airways

As part of their effort to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050, British Airways announced today that they are testing the possibility of 3D printing certain aircraft parts. If successful, this technology could improve punctuality and reduce emissions by limiting the need to fly spare parts throughout their network. According to technology experts at the airline, the possibilities for 3D printing are practically endless and it is conceivable that 3D printers could be located at airports throughout the world. The ability to create certain spare parts on-site has the potential to transform commercial aircraft maintenance.

Although 3D printing is still in its infancy, rapid advances in the technology indicate a transformative future for the aviation maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO) industry. The technology team at British Airways believes non-essential cabin parts such as tray tables, entertainment systems and toilet facilities are the logical starting point fore 3D part replication. These parts don’t affect the safe operation of the aircraft, but can cause delays, or limit the number of available passenger seats. In Monday’s announcement, British Airways’ Head of Innovation, Ricardo Vidal said,

“We work with start-ups and innovation partners from around the world to explore and implement the latest technologies, from artificial intelligence to speed up turnaround times to biometrics, helping us deliver a seamless airport experience for our customers. 3D printing is yet another advancement that will keep us at the forefront of airline innovation.”

3D printing can produce parts and components that are as strong as traditional parts with a weight reduction up to 55%. For every kilogram of weight reduction, an aircraft can eliminate up to 25 tons of CO2 over its lifetime. British Airways’ technology team believes some of the logical first steps in implementing 3D printing technology could include items such as cutlery, amenity kit products, tray tables, aircraft windows, IFE screens, seats, baggage containers, circuit boards, flight deck switches and aircraft shells. As the technology advances, the possibility of 3D printing a host of mission-critical parts presents a transformative cost and emissions saving prospect for the industry.

Source: British Airways


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