China commercializes 3D printing in aviation

Summary:China looks to lower the cost of 3D printing and make large titanium components to build the next-gen fighter jet and self-developed passenger plane.

By using laser additive manufactured titanium parts in its aviation industry, China is looking to become a global leader in commercializing 3D printing technology.

The laser additive manufacturing technology not only lowers the cost of titanium parts to only 5 percent of the original, it also reduces the weight of the components and enhances the strength of complicated parts.

As much as 40 percent of the weight can be reduced if the forged titanium parts on an American F-22 were made using the Chinese 3D printing technology , according to a a report on Chinese Web site, Guancha Zhe.

With funding from the government, especially from the military, the Chinese aviation laser technology team is making headways in making titanium parts for the country's fifth generation of fighter jets, the J-20 and J-31, by lowering the cost and raising the jets' thrust-weight ratio.

The Northwestern Polytechnical University of China is also making five meter-long titanium wing beams for the C919 passenger plane, which is scheduled to be put into commercial operation in 2016.

"As the aviation technology develops, the components are also getting lighter, more complicated, and also need to have better mechanical properties," said Huang Weidong, director of the university's laboratory, to a local newspaper. "It is very hard to use traditional technologies to make such parts, but 3D printing could just meet such demands."

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This 5-meter-long titanium beam was made in a Chinese university lab. (Source: Guancha Zhe)

 

Topics: Emerging Tech, China, Tech Industry

About

Liu Jiayi is a Hong Kong-based writer and editor.He produces video stories for Al Jazeera English and Severn News Australia, and also worked as the video editor for the Hong Kong-San Francisco Ocean Film Festival 2012. He is studying under a Master of Journalism Programme at the University of Hong Kong.

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