Largest 3D printed airplane cabin

The design and manufacturing process of the Autodesk-Airbus collaboration makes the world’s first such structure stronger and much lighter than traditional ones

January, 2016

Airbus has collaborated with 3D design and engineering software leader Autodesk to create the world’s largest 3D printed airplane cabin component. Dubbed as the ‘bionic partition,’ the component was created with custom algorithms that generated a design that mimics cellular structure and bone growth, and then produced using additive manufacturing techniques.

According to Autodesk senior executives, the cabin’s pioneering design and manufacture process renders the structure stronger and more lightweight than would be possible using traditional processes.

The partition is a dividing wall between the seating area and the galley of a plane and holds the jump seat for the cabin attendants. As with many aircraft components, the partition has incredible design and structural requirements, including specific cutouts and weight limits, making the generative design approach particularly appropriate.

Designed in a structurally-strong, but lightweight micro-lattice shape, Airbus’ new bionic partition is 45 per cent (30 kg) lighter than current designs. When applied to the entire cabin and to the current backlog of A320 planes, Airbus estimates that the new design approach can save up to 465,000 tonnes of C02 emissions per year.

Jeff Kowalski, chief technology officer, Autodesk, said, “Generative design, additive manufacturing and the development of new materials are already transforming the shape of manufacturing and innovative companies like Airbus are showing what is possible.”

The new bionic partition uses Scalmalloy, a second-generation aluminium-magnesium-scandium alloy created by APWorks, an Airbus subsidiary focused on additive manufacturing and advanced materials.

Scalmalloy is specifically designed for use in 3D printing and offers outstanding mechanical properties, meaning that it will stretch more before breaking.

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