SIMULIA Community News

May 2016: Journey to the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform

3D Printing in Aerospace: Extending the Frontier of the Possible

News - Stratasys

NASA outfitted the Mars rovers with 70 3D-printed parts.

Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, is often associated with rapid prototyping applications, where there are no functional or load-bearing requirements on the printed parts. However, the situation is rapidly changing. AM technologies have matured significantly in recent years, and industrial grade materials are now being used in many AM processes to produce parts for production applications in the aerospace, automotive, and many other industries.

SIMULIA is addressing the key AM challenges by collaborating with Stratasys, a leading manufacturer of 3D printers for more than 25 years, to develop a new end-to-end simulation and optimization process including everything from upstream material design to downstream manufacturing processes to ensure that the part performs as desired in a production environment.


Innovation in aerospace is accelerating, advancing frontiers at the component and product levels in manufacturing operations, along supply chains and, in some cases, even at the model level. Parts can now be created with complex geometries and shapes that in many cases are impossible to create without 3D printing. Low aerospace volumes make 3D printing an attractive, less costly alternative that can even replace conventional CNC machining and other tooling processes for smaller-scale parts and finished assemblies. Aerospace innovators are embracing 3D printing beyond prototyping and are aggressively pursuing new applications for the technology.


Innovative aerospace manufacturers want to drive down the cost and weight of aircraft, improving economy and design aesthetics and adhere to stringent FAA regulatory and compliance standards. 3D printing technology can produce durable, stable end-use parts—bypassing the traditional production line altogether. The Production Series of 3D production systems—the Stratasys® line of larger, top-of-the line 3D printers—uses a range of materials, including high-performance thermoplastics, to create parts with predictable mechanical, chemical and thermal properties.

Boeing, for example, uses 3D printing while manufacturing aircraft for multiple airlines. Although the plane itself is essentially the same from one order to the next, the interiors vary. As a result, a particular air duct may bend to the right instead of upward. So ordering a custom $40,000 tool made overseas to create just 25 of these parts is extravagant and time-consuming. Boeing overcomes these problems by 3D printing the custom end-use parts and installing them directly on the aircraft.

Many other leading aerospace manufacturers are also using 3D printing to fabricate jigs and fixtures, production tooling and final end-use parts. Production parts for instrumentation (Kelly Manufacturing), air ducts (Taylor Deal) and wingspans (Aurora) are airborne today in commercial, military aircraft and UAVs.

Have you embraced 3D printing to help you accelerate innovation? The pattern of adoption and outcomes from implementation are clear: 3D printing accelerates change in aerospace manufacturing, and companies small and large should embrace and learn to leverage this technology.

Learn more about Stratasys and 3D printing in Aerospace and other industries at