Etihad Airways, the UAE’s second largest airline, has been taking its 3D printing game up a notch this year.
Not only did the company recently announce a collaboration with Siemens and Strata to manufacture the first 3D printed aircraft interior parts in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region; it has also secured the approval of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to design and certify 3D printed aircraft interior parts.
According to Etihad Airways, the approval makes it the first airline MRO (maintenance, repair, and overhaul) service working under EASA to “hold certification approvals for 3D printed parts flying on Etihad Airways aircraft.”
The UAE airline, which transported 18.5 million people on its aircrafts in 2016, is aiming to become a leading aircraft OEM (original equipment manufacturer) with its certified 3D printed components, joining the ranks of Airbus, Boeing, and the like.
Excitingly, the airline has already put its certification power into action, officially certifying the first 3D printed aircraft interior parts in the Middle Eastern nation.
The parts, of course, underwent extensive testing at all levels, and were subject to material qualifications such as strength, environmental, and flammability testing.
The latter was completed at Etihad Airways’ new Engineering Flammability Lab, located at the Etihad Airways Engineering facility in Abu Dhabi.
For aerospace companies and aircraft manufacturers, 3D printing offers a revolutionary manufacturing process that opens the doors for parts with complex internal structures, optimized for certain applications.
Additionally, additive manufacturing has allowed for faster prototyping lead times (going from design to prototype), which has in turn helped companies to cut back on overall product development costs.
“We believe in offering innovative and industry leading aircraft maintenance and engineering solutions to our customers around the world,” said Jeff Wilkinson, Chief Executive Officer of Etihad Airways Engineering.
“It is part of Abu Dhabi’s vision to be a global aerospace hub and we support this by being a centre and excellence not just in maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO), but also in design, engineering, and innovation.”
The largest commercial aircraft MRO services provider in the Middle East, Etihad Airways Engineering is the first MRO in the region to obtain an extended Part 21J Design Organization Approval (DOA) by EASA—the certification required for 3D printed aircraft cabin parts.
With EASA’s recent approval, there is little doubt that Etihad Airways Engineering will be designing, developing, and unveiling new and innovative 3D printed aircraft interior parts.