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Air New Zealand wants to 3D print the objects we use during flights

by • February 23, 2016 • No Comments

There are thousands of companies out there set up to support the make
and continued running of commercial aircraft. Beyond the initial manufacturing of a plane which
can fly, there’s thousands of parts making up the interior cabin areas, and they vary from airline to airline. But
, with the expanding
popularity of 3D printing, airlines are realizing they can begin
producing components themselves, saving time, cost, and even mass
.

The first to realize this (at least publicly) is Air New Zealand, who has been working closely with the Auckland University of Technology. Rather than approach third party make
rs to come up with a design, a production schedule, and ultimately sign a contract to supply a specific amount of parts, Air New Zealand is going to begin
experimenting with 3D printing its own interior components
. It’s begin
ing simple, with the first 3D-printed part being a fold-down cocktail tray utilized
in Business Premier seating.

airnewzealand_business_flatbed

Currently, the company has to keep replacement stock of different components in storage. This takes up a lot of space and costs money, and there’s in addition
the issue of needing a specific component which
’s stored in a different part of the world to where the aircraft which
needs it is parked up. With 3D printing you have a printer, a raw material (typically plastic), and a design, and you print to order. Air New Zealand could have lots of 3D printers and materials eager
to use at major airports, all of which take up very little space, and costs significantly less than storing most
of different parts.

3D printing in addition
comes with another big advantage: easy experimentation. Air New Zealand can try new designs for very little cost, and in the system
potentially save on mass
and size. If the cocktail tray works out, then expect 3D printing to expand to other components typically found within
commercial aircraft.

[Business class seating image courtesy of Phillip Capper on Flickr]


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