South African researchers at the Aeroswift project, based at South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research's (CSIR) National Laser Centre, are in discussions with Airbus and Boeing to 3D print aircraft parts thanks to them having developed the world’s largest 3D printing machine for producing aircraft parts. The machine produces aircraft parts by using lasers to melt powdered titanium.
To date, South Africa's Aeroswift 3D printing project has produced a number of demo aircraft parts to showcase what it is capable of. These parts include a throttle lever, a condition lever grip for the throttle assembly and a fuel tank pylon bracket. Furthermore, to prove the concept, Aeroswift have said that these parts will be tested in flights in 2017. What makes the machine unique, apart from being the largest of its kind in the world, is that it is apparently ten times faster than any other laser melting machine currently available globally.
The 3D printing machine has a production chamber of 2000 mm x 600 mm x 600 mm.
Aeroswift 3D printing machine based at the CSIR National Laser Centre
Having been founded in 2011, and backed by South Africa's government, the Aeroswift research project is said to be in discussions with Airbus and Boeing, along with the relevant South African government agencies, on how best to commercialize the process and to ensure that it creates jobs in South Africa.
It is expected, should the discussions be succesful, that the first commercial application and use of Aeroswift's 3D printing machine for producing aircraft parts for Airbus and Boeing will be in 2019.