UK-based aircraft maintenance, modification and design company Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group (Marshall ADG) is using advanced 3D printing from Israeli company Stratasys to produce flight-ready parts for its aircraft.

Marshall ADG is also using 3D printing to manufacture ground-running equipment at a lower cost than aluminium alternatives.

Privately owned and independent aerospace and defence company Marshall is already using 3D-printed ductwork on modified aircraft, and holders for safety knives and switches for aircraft interiors.

The company claimed that on-demand 3D printing of flight-approved parts allows it to produce lighter parts much quicker and at a lower cost compared with traditional methods.

Marshall ADG materials, processes and additive manufacturing engineer Chris Botting said: “When manufacturing on complex engineering programmes, we need a method that can create an accurate, complex, functional and lightweight duct efficiently with minimal tooling costs – this is where 3D printing fits perfectly.

“But we also need to ensure that the ducting work produced will be approved by the EASA for flight. As a result, we’re using the Stratasys Fortus 450mc FDM Printer and ULTEM 9085 resin – a tough yet lightweight 3D printing material with high thermal and chemical resistance.

“This has been crucial to overcoming the stringent requirements of our industry, as we can now 3D print parts with the desired flame, smoke and toxicity properties for use on aircraft interiors.”

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Marshall ADG has also purchased Fortus 450mc 3D printer from Stratasys UK and Ireland Platinum Partner SYS Systems to manufacture final parts on the ground.

The company recently has created a ducting adapter prototype for ground-running equipment for providing air to cool the aircraft’s avionics.

“There is no doubt that 3D printing will continue to have a significant impact in the way we design and manufacture in our business.”

Marshall ADG also uses Stratasys 3D printers for complex tooling applications, including drill jigs, bonded fixtures, masking templates and composite mould tooling.

Botting added: “FDM technology has altered the way we work, and the aerospace-grade 3D printers and materials enable us to meet our increasingly aggressive deadlines and complex manufacturing requirements.

“In the future, there is no doubt that 3D printing will continue to have a significant impact in the way we design and manufacture in our business.”