Aviation and Defence sectors were the early adopters of Additive Manufacturing (AM) due to its ability to create complex parts with precision and ability to overcome the limitations of traditional manufacturing processes. In the Middle East, governments and private companies are recognising the immense potential of Additive Manufacturing for Aviation and Defence industries and are actively participating in its development.
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This article explores the government initiatives, private companies’ initiatives, and showcases some inspiring case studies highlighting the impact of AM in the aviation and defence industries.
Additive Manufacturing for Aviation in Middle East
Aviation industry was one of the earliest adaptor of the AM, due to its ability of customization, development of lattice structures and ability to develop new designs.
AM enables rapid prototyping and iterative design processes, allowing engineers to quickly test and refine concepts before committing to large-scale production in aviation. This speeds up the development cycle and reduces time to market.
One of such example is design and development of video monitor shrouds by Emirates. Emirates has is using selective laser sintering (SLS), a new 3D printing technique to produce video monitor shrouds. New video monitor shrouds have demonstrated improved performance over the traditional shrouds.
Aircraft weight reduction is crucial for fuel efficiency and operational cost savings. AM enables the creation of lightweight structures by utilizing optimized lattice designs and advanced materials, resulting in improved performance and reduced fuel consumption. AM allows the production of complex components with intricate geometries that are difficult or impossible to manufacture using traditional methods. This enables the creation of highly efficient parts, such as fuel nozzles, turbine blades, and heat exchangers, which can improve aircraft performance. In this context, research and development of lattice structures is being conducted in Technology Innovation Center
With AM, parts can be produced on-demand, reducing inventory costs and minimizing lead times. This is particularly beneficial for legacy aircraft that may have discontinued or hard-to-find components. It also enables decentralized manufacturing and localized production, enhancing supply chain resilience.
AM eliminates the need for tooling and complex assembly processes, reducing production costs. Additionally, the ability to consolidate multiple parts into a single component reduces assembly time and simplifies maintenance, leading to cost savings throughout the product lifecycle. The design freedom offered by AM allows for optimized structures and improved aerodynamics, leading to enhanced aircraft performance in terms of speed, range, and fuel efficiency. The use of lightweight materials also contributes to increased payload capacity and extended flight range.
Etihad Airways, national flagship carrier for the UAE, and Dubai’s Emirates Airlines have begun using 3D printing technology to manufacture components for aircraft cabins. The companies’ goals are to enable faster, safer and cheaper parts production. AM enables customization and personalization of aircraft interiors, such as cabin components and passenger amenities. This offers airlines the opportunity to create unique experiences for passengers, fostering customer loyalty and differentiation in a competitive market. The Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) market in the UAE is expected to grow from US$9bn in 2019 to $13.2bn in 2029, with an increasing role for 3D printed technologies. AM plays a vital role in Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) activities by providing on-demand production of spare parts, reducing lead times, and minimizing aircraft downtime. This ensures faster turnaround times, improves fleet availability, and streamlines maintenance operations.
Additive Manufacturing for Defense in Middle East
The ability of AM to produce complex parts on-demand, reduce supply chain vulnerabilities, and enhance customization are the key reason for adaption in defense manufacturing processes. AM enables the rapid production of spare parts, reducing dependence on lengthy and costly supply chains. This capability is especially critical for military operations, where the availability of spare parts can significantly impact readiness and operational effectiveness. Additive manufacturing allows for the creation of customized equipment tailored to specific military requirements. From individual soldier gear to vehicle components, AM offers the flexibility to rapidly produce personalized solutions that enhance performance and protection. AM facilitates the rapid prototyping and testing of defense equipment. This accelerates the design iteration process, reduces development costs, and enables the timely deployment of innovative solutions to address emerging threats and operational needs.
One of the such example is the SkysPrinter is a small, 3D-printed unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that was developed by the Israeli Ministry of Defense and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). It is made from 26 parts that are 3D printed using metal, nylon, carbon, and other complex materials.
Additive manufacturing reduces dependence on global supply chains by enabling localized production of critical defense components. This enhances supply chain resilience, reduces vulnerabilities, and ensures timely availability of parts even in challenging environments or during disruptions. AM eliminates the need for expensive tooling and reduces material waste, resulting in cost savings throughout the production lifecycle.
Tawazun Council partners with Saab to deliver sovereign 3D-printing capability for UAE Air Force and Air Defence. The agreement followed the launching of the first Emirati 3D printing Centre of Excellence “Sindan”, which was announced during IDEX 2023. Additive manufacturing is used to produce specialized tooling and jigs required for defense manufacturing processes. This ensures accuracy, efficiency, and repeatability, streamlining production and maintenance operations.
The ability to produce complex components as a single piece also reduces assembly requirements and associated costs. Additive manufacturing enables rapid response capabilities, allowing defense forces to quickly adapt to evolving threats and operational needs. On-demand production of parts and equipment reduces lead times, enhances mission readiness, and improves overall agility. Additive manufacturing provides greater control over the manufacturing process, reducing the risk of intellectual property theft and unauthorized replication of defense equipment. This enhances national security by safeguarding sensitive technologies and maintaining a competitive edge.
Government Initiatives to Promote Additive Manufacturing in Defense and Aviation
The UAE’s defense industrial strategy recognizes the importance of additive manufacturing in advancing the country’s defense capabilities. It emphasizes collaboration between the military, government, and private sector to develop additive manufacturing capabilities, enhance research and development, and foster innovation in the defense sector.
Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 initiative includes a strong focus on developing domestic defense capabilities. Additive manufacturing is seen as a key technology to localize manufacturing, reduce reliance on imports, and enhance defense self-sufficiency. The country aims to establish additive manufacturing centers and leverage the technology to enhance national security.
Advanced Military Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul Center (AMMROC), a joint venture between Lockheed Martin, Sikorsky, and Mubadala Investment Company, specializes in aerospace maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) services. AMMROC has incorporated AM into their MRO processes to optimize the supply chain, reduce costs, and enhance operational readiness for military aircraft in the Middle East.
Additive manufacturing is revolutionizing the aviation industry by enabling faster prototyping, lightweight structures, complex component production, and supply chain optimization. The benefits of cost reduction, enhanced performance, customization, and improved MRO operations are driving the adoption of AM across the aerospace sector. As the technology continues to evolve and overcome challenges, we can expect additive manufacturing to play an increasingly significant role in shaping the future of aviation, delivering innovative solutions and transforming the way aircraft are designed, manufactured, and maintained.
AM Conclave Middle East is an initiative to bring the entire Additive Manufacturing and 3D Printing ecosystem in the Middle East on one platform including Government, Users, Software Providers, Hardware, Material Manufacturers, Research Institutes and Standards & Certification Bodies, with an aim to advance the adoption of AM in line with the various initiatives and strategies in the region to catalyze manufacturing.
The event will feature application and technology focussed conference mapping the latest developments and trends in the world of Additive Manufacturing. A high quality technical conference will also be supported by a technology showcase and networking zone for the industry stakeholders to showcase their solutions and exchange ideas.
For more information visit: https://amconclave.com/
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