3D printing aerospace parts for the Aviation and Space industries

Why 3D printing with titanium for Aerospace?

The aerospace industry is the largest customer of titanium alloy products. Titanium's high strength-to-weight ratio, high temperature and corrosion resistance are favourable for applications including airframe structures as well as smaller components for jet / turbine engines, rotors, landing gears and compressor blades.

In comparison with stainless steel, titanium alloys Ti6Al4V or Ti64 can be twice as strong with only 60% of its density. As a result, titanium alloys are suitable for the manufacture of critical components for large format unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Aircraft with a higher percentage of titanium parts are stronger, lighter and more fuel-efficient.

Processing titanium is more complex than steel and is difficult to machine. Titanium has a low thermal conductivity, the heat generated during machining can wear out CNC tooling quickly. Titanium powder required for aerospace applications is controlled to meet performance requirements. Additive Manufacturing has the advantage of printing titanium components utilising only the material that is needed and requires minimal post-machining, resulting in less material waste and manufacturing sustainability. 

Titanium’s excellent mechanical properties have been limited to high-value applications because of its high cost, until now. With accreditation for 3D printing technologies achieved by aerospace OEMs including GE Additive, Northrop Grumman to Lockheed Martin for the additive manufacture of titanium aerospace parts, titanium 3D printing is becoming more viable manufacturing process to deliver high performance 3D printed products that meet stringent aerospace standards.

Case Study


The NACA Inlet for General Atomics Aeronautical Systems SkyGuardian drone was printed on the Concept Laser M2 in titanium Ti64Al4V. Design to test flight was done in 6 months, component weight was reduced by 30% and requirements for tooling was also reduced by 80%.

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