The AM market for aerospace could reach US$805 million in revenues by 2019, and go on to reach US$1.2 billion by 2023.
The AM market for aerospace could reach US$805 million in revenues by 2019, and go on to reach US$1.2 billion by 2023.

Aerospace is the second largest industry sector served by additive manufacturing (AM), after dental/medical AM, and using AM for prototyping has been part of aircraft manufacturing since the 1980s. In future AM could enable aerospace firms to reduce labour costs, minimise manual assembly, and reduce the weight of aircraft.

Metal powder bed systems account for most AM applied in aerospace. By 2019, revenues from powder bed equipment alone are expected to be more than US$305 million, growing to US$485 million in 2023. The report suggests that the use of powder bed equipment can further the use of titanium and nickel materials in commercial aircraft, noting that recently developed powder bed systems are becoming more robust industrial machines that can handle more types of materials and different types of energy source.

This report, published by SmarTech, also emphasizes that AM can lead to substantial weight reductions; a priority in the manufacturing of commercial aviation since the gas price hikes of 2004. Case studies have shown that AM can result in 50-70% weight reduction in select parts, creating a strong incentive for AM to be used in aerospace manufacturing.

Material demands

It is also estimated that AM manufacturing of some parts in an airplane could reduce aircraft manufacturers material consumption by 75%. Because of the cost effectiveness of AM, the report suggests that AM materials sales to grow to about US$150 million by 2019. 

Companies discussed in the report include 3D Systems, Airbus, Arcam, BAE Systems, Boeing, Concept Laser, DSM, EOS, GE Aviation, CRP, Direct Manufacturing, EnvisionTEC, ExOne, Honeywell, Kelly Manufacturing, Lithoz, Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grumman, Optomec, Oxford Performance Materials, Rolls-Royce, RTI International Metals, Sciaky, SLM Solutions, Stratasys, Trumpf and Within Technologies