In what is being described as a first for the commercial MRO sector, Pratt & Whitney (P&W) has revealed the “industrialisation” of 3D printing for its aircraft engine components.
The company has collaborated with ST Engineering on the pioneering project, which aims to simplify processes to deliver faster and flexible repair options.
The 3D-printed part is due to be incorporated into the repair process “by mid-2020" at P&W’s Component Aerospace Singapore (CAS) affiliate helping form a fuel system component within the company’s engines. Leveraging its expertise in the field, Pratt & Whitney extended ST Engineering’s application of the 3D-printing methods within ground transportation to produce the component for a P&W engine.
The announcement was made by the firms at the 2020 Singapore Airshow which is taking place at the Changi Exhibition Centre, just a few miles from the specialist MRO facility.
Brendon McWilliam, executive director of aftermarket operations, Asia Pacific for P&W said: “Thanks to the out-of-the-box thinking by our employees at Component Aerospace Singapore, we are now another step closer to scaling the technology to meet our growing aftermarket operations, and industrialising 3D printing for the industry. This groundbreaking innovation is part of the wider technology roadmap by Pratt & Whitney to introduce advanced technologies that integrate artificial intelligence, robotics and automation across our operations as part of our digital transformation.”
The growth of 3D printing technology is already being rolled out across a range of aviation sub-sectors and is considered a major growth area for the industry. Its ability to produce parts in real-time, on demand and to exacting specifications is considered to have transformative potential.
Explaining the potential benefits for the market, Chin-Huat Sia, principal engineer at CAS noted: “3D printing will be a game-changer for the MRO industry worldwide, especially in servicing even more commercial engines [as the] technology enables greater flexibility in our inventory management.”
Following this initial breakthrough, both Pratt & Whitney and ST Engineering will now start to examine how the technology could be applied to other aviation components and engine types.