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3D printing technology
in aviation & travel

3D printing technology: the future of flying

3D printed plane and paper clouds

As 3D printing becomes more and more advanced, it’s clear that boundaries are being pushed like never before. From robots and rocket engines to foodstuffs, electric guitars and even cars, the products of 3D printing are increasing in diversity and quality.

The aviation business is certainly no exception. 3D printing is a fast-moving technology, and the industry is already benefitting from its innovations.

How 3D technology is changing air travel

Aviation developments have already been enhanced by this innovative technology, with both external and engine parts being designed and created through 3D printing. A key benefit of using 3D-printed components is that they are lighter, so the overall aircraft weight is reduced and less fuel is used. The parts are also often stronger and substantially cheaper than their predecessors. On top of this, if a part needs to be changed, a replacement can be printed quickly and easily. The result of all these factors is a truly efficient aircraft.

3D printing and travel

This seemingly futuristic technology has actually been used for several years, but it’s only recently that it’s taken its first steps into the lives of individuals. With clothes, toys and furniture now available as 3D-printed products, the potential to improve daily life with this technology is apparent – and with this comes the potential to improve the experience of travel.

The beauty of 3D printing is that every product can be as unique as you choose – creating items that you’ll want to treasure for a lifetime. Not only that, but the technology can be highly convenient. For example, 3D printing expert, designer and conceptual artist Janne Kyttanen (opens in a new window) has showcased clothes and accessories that can be printed from a computer file, which would eliminate the need for people to pack a bag when travelling and make forgotten items a thing of the past. It seems like a novel idea at the moment, but what’s to say it won’t become commonplace in the future?

Ultimaker: creative experts

We asked Ultimaker (opens in a new window) Director Paul Croft what the manufacturing benefits 3D printing will have on the airline industry. “From an industry point of view, benefits are already starting to be realised, as additive manufacturing is allowing new weight saving parts to be designed and incorporated. When coupled with the ability to produce replacement parts on demand, the financial implications could be huge.”

Ultimaker 3D printed luggage badge, espresso cup, and business card.

In terms of how 3D printing is moving us into the future Paul said, “Looking from a consumer perspective, there are two main areas in which I can see benefits. People will have the ability to have unique personalised souvenirs of their trips, and, they will never be stuck unable to get a replacement for a forgotten item!

“For the business users who are always looking to have a premium service, offering the facility to 3D print whilst on long haul flights is a huge added value. What better way to arrive from a transatlantic flight than with your new design in hand ready to have a successful meeting?”“3D printing has had a game changing effect on many industries and we are still at the embryonic stages for the industry.”

Improving, growing, developing, evolving… these are all actions at the core of 3D printing brand Ultimaker, who describe themselves as “ordinary people with extraordinary plans”. Always curious and forever creative, they have a whole family of products – including printers, software and add-ons – that work with quality filaments to build exceptional products. They also have an online community (opens in a new window) for experts, enthusiasts and people eager to learn more about the extensive possibilities in the world of 3D.

Natural Machines

We asked CMO and co-founder Lynette Kucsma how 3D food advances the experience of flying. To her, personalization is key, “It's all about customization, and getting food that is freshly made, with real ingredients.” Passengers can tweak their meals to the letter, changing it based on allergies, intolerances, calorie count and taste – creating a truly tailored taste experience.

VirginAtlantic-Foodini-NaturalMachines

Natural Machines (opens in a new window) are dedicated to creating foods that are fun, delicious and nutritious. In light of this, they created Foodini – a 3D food printer that aims to simplify and change convenience foods for the better. The end product isn’t processed – it’s real food with controlled ingredients.

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Get inspired on a trip to London

If you’re passionate about this innovation and would like to see it first-hand, why not take a trip to London? The English capital is home to several exciting 3D printing cafés and workshops. MakersCAFE (opens in a new window) is based in the creative hub of East London – Shoreditch. On top of 3D printing, they provide laser cutting and engraving (plus a mean cup of java).

Also, ask them about their 3D scanning service – they can replicate everything from faces to (other) natural materials.On the fashion front, there’s Shoes by Bryan (opens in a new window), who design “the world’s first eco-friendly, customizable and wearable 3D printed high heels”. Truly unique and distinctive, these shoes really will walk you right into the future, and you can customize your own pair online (opens in a new window). Although they don’t own a physical shop, they often host pop up shops, so you can try a few pairs on for size if you’re in town at the right time.


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