Courtesy Airliners

Next: the whole plane

Rapid prototyping, or 3-D printing, has been used to create all kinds of amazing objects in a variety of media, but a team working under EADS in the UK wants to print something heretofore unheard of: the entire wing of an airliner. Working at the same facility where Concordes were once built, researchers there are already printing landing gear brackets and other aircraft components in hopes that one day they’ll be able to print out many of the critical parts for an entire aircraft.

This is chiefly due to developments that allow modern 3-D printers to turn out finished objects in media ranging from the high-grade titanium alloys necessary for aircraft construction to glass, plastics, concrete, and even frosting.

It’s also within the realm of possibility that the company could build an entire aircraft–piece by piece–in one place, sidestepping some of the supply-chain problems that have delayed the Airbus A380.

Experts in the field now say 20 percent of the output of the world’s 3-D printers is final products, and that’s expected to rise to 50 percent by 2020. In other words, people are prototyping and manufacturing on the same machines.

If you could print an airline wing that can stand up to wind-tunnel tests, you could print just about anything. 3-D printing lowers the cost of entry into manufacturing for any number of enterprises.

If EADS is already printing aircraft components, the automakers are likely to get on board. New for 2035, the printed Corvette.

  1. Mr, Ed - the Original (with comma) says:

    What happens if they print the left wing in Times New Roman and the right wing in Comic Sans?

  2. msbpodcast says:

    in #31, deowll said: So how many of you will be printing your next girl friend or boy friend?

    Already been done.

    Look at the sheets and, uh, specialty pillows you can buy in Akihabara or from J-list.

  3. Buckwheat says:

    This is actually the prototype for the “Star Trek replicator”. First printing, next atomic/molecular manipulations!

  4. JimD says:

    I don’t know if they noticed, but you need TWO WINGS TO FLY !!! And that AirBus 381 is an invitation to terrorists to KILL PEOPLE IN VERY LARGE NUMBERS !!!


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