Etihad opens new facility in Abu Dhabi to 3D print aircraft parts

Abu Dhabi-based Etihad has opened a new 3D printing manufacturing facility in the UAE capital to produce aircraft crafts, it announced on Thursday.

The facility, set up by Etihad Engineering in partnership with 3D printing technology providers EOS and BigRep, has received design and production approval from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

Located at the Etihad Engineering facility adjacent to Abu Dhabi International Airport, the new laboratory features two approved industrial 3D printers. The primary machine is the powder-bed fusion technology system EOS P 396 for aircraft applications.

In contrast to traditional manufacturing processes, it enables faster production and reduced weight of cabin parts.

The system produces serial parts from polymer materials such as PA 2241 FR, and enables the manufacture of cabin parts for an aircraft’s heavy maintenance C-Check, a statement said.

Cabin defects can also be rectified within a short turnaround time, which will allow for the production of the required cabin parts during line maintenance.

The EOS machine also enables the tool-free manufacture of serial components, spare parts, functional prototypes and models directly from CAD data.

Markus Glasser, senior vice president, export region, EOS, said: “Producing cabin interior parts additively will offer a substantial value-add in terms of optimised repair, lightweight design, shorter lead times and customisation, addressing some of the key challenges of the aerospace industry.”

The second machine is the BigRep ONE, “the world’s largest industrial thermoplastic extrusion 3D printer”, the statement said. The machine is designed for manufacturing large parts, jigs and fixtures as well as moulds – on site and on demand.

Etihad Engineering first received EASA approval to 3D print with filament technology in 2017 and was the first airline MRO in the world to certify, print and fly 3D printed cabin parts. The latest approval, received in October 2019, covers powder bed fusion 3D printing technology, the statement added.