Posted On: 2016-04-26 09:56:11 ; Read: 713 time(s)

Boeing and 3D Printing Make Aircraft Certification Cheaper and Faster

Boeing file a patent for 3D printing “ice” to simulate icing conditions during flight and thus reduce costs and time for aircraft certification


As 3D printing is breaking all records and entering into all spheres of our lives, Boeing, a company dedicated to aerospace development and construction, has been always a step ahead of its competitors and 3D printing has been one of the secrets for the company’s success. Now, the aerospace manufacturer is about to get another patent by the US Patent Office and the application once again involves 3D printing.

In fact, Boeing are trying to 3D print artificial ice directly at specific areas of the planes and thus simulate real conditions that can lead to fatal accidents - icings. Actually what’s going to be 3D printed are plastic and composite shapes that will be installed on the airplane wings and other surfaces that are usually affected by icing at a certain height during flight.

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The goal of Boeing is to use 3D printing for simulating icing conditions and thus, to  facilitate and reduce the cost of the certification process for airplanes.

But why this simulation is needed anyway? Well, if you have some knowledge about physics and chemistry, you probably know that when tiny water drops have been cooled to a certain degree, they stick to every solid surface available and make it crystalize. This crystallization, though, is very risky for airplanes while flying because the ice can produce bumps on the wings and other surfaces and thus, it can change drastically the aerodynamics of the aircraft. You may guess how fatal this can be.

This serious risk has made the certification authorities in the field of aeronautics to require proofs that the aircraft can operate safely in icing conditions. For that sake, the whole plane that needs to be certified is put into a wind tunnel with supercooled water droplets. The moulds of ice that build up are measured and reproduced in materials such as glassfiber and resin and then, these are attached to the plane. The plane has to fly with them with no issues.


As you could guess, this process is slow and expensive, that’s why Boeing believe the use of 3D printing can lower the costs and reduce the time.


The plan of Boeing is to make a digital model of the airplane, then make the same simulation and attachment of the resin-ice-representing shapes to the specific parts of the surface of the craft, then carefully 3D print all the models that are perfect replicas of the actual things - both the plane and the ice bumps.

Boeing and 3D Printing Make Aircraft Certification Cheaper and Faster