AM Hub: Why is the aviation sector so enthusiastic about additive manufacturing?

While many industries are awakening to the benefits of additive manufacturing, the aviation sector was one of the first to embrace this new manufacturing approach.

In this installment of AM Hub, Keyvan Hosseinkhani, Technical Director at Burloak Technologies, explains why additive is an optimal solution for many aviation applications.


Why were aviation OEMs among the first to embrace additive manufacturing (AM) solutions?

The aviation sector is highly competitive and very dynamic in nature. In addition to being constantly challenged to maintain a steady supply of high-quality components, aviation OEMs are also expected to continually innovate and evolve their fleets – building more eco-friendly and fuel efficient planes, for example.

Additive manufacturing provides a number of supply chain, product and process benefits including faster development times, a more nimble and reliable supply chain, and lighter, stronger, and more innovative components. These advantages are very attractive to aviation OEMs as they can give them an edge in a very competitive business environment.  As a result, aviation OEMs were among the first adopters and enthusiasts of AM, and from what we’ve seen at Burloak, the sector’s interest is only gaining momentum.


What components are best suited for AM and why?

There are so many components in an airplane – from simple valves and brackets, to more complex heat exchangers and other intricate assemblies.  As Burloak has seen in our close partnerships with aviation OEMs, a great many of these parts can be significantly enhanced through AM.

One of the most attractive features of AM is certainly its ability to make parts that are significantly lighter – up to 90% lighter in some instances. This is a major draw for aviation OEMs who are very focused on reducing the weight of their fleet, partly to drive better fuel efficiency and reduce the impact on the environment.  And yet, despite this incredible reduction in weight, AM components are typically stronger and more durable due to the nature of the materials used and the unique, previously-impossible geometries that can be achieved. A good example of this is AM’s ability to consolidate multiple components into one streamlined part, eliminating the need for fasteners and achieving increased strength.


How do AM providers meet the strict requirements of the aviation sector?

For obvious reasons, aviation is heavily regulated and OEMs must adhere to stringent safety, quality and reliability requirements.  AM partners must fully understand and align to these requirements in order to support customers in this industry.  As such, it’s critical for OEMs to find AM partners who have a proven track record of excellence supporting the aviation sector, combined with the capabilities required to meet their unique needs.

Interestingly, many members of the Burloak team have origins in the aviation sector. This has provided us with an excellent basis of knowledge on which to serve aviation customers – particularly when it comes to the stringent certification requirements OEMs, manufacturers and suppliers serving the sector must comply with.  Certification is a long, costly and challenging process, and without a strong basis of knowledge and experience, certification would be extremely difficult.

Of course, in addition to knowledge and experience, a good AM partner must also have the capabilities to meet the customers’ needs. Burloak offers fully integrated AM capabilities – from application and process design, to prototyping, materials testing, production, quality assurance and post-processing solutions including Nadcap accredited heat treatment.  These in-house offerings help our aviation customers to scale their AM solutions, while ensuring compliance with strict quality and regulatory requirements.


What can other industries learn from the aviation sector’s incorporation of AM solutions?

Aviation OEMs know that staying competitive means they need to move beyond the status quo to accelerate innovation and mitigate supply chain risk, while simultaneously maintaining the highest levels of quality and reliability.   Achieving this balance has required a good deal of partnership between OEMs and their AM partners to ensure that AM solutions are optimized from a product, process and supply chain perspective. 

As experts in AM, Burloak’s primary goal is to listen to our customers, understand their needs and drivers, and leverage our experience, expertise and capabilities to develop right-sized AM solutions to help them achieve their goals. It’s a journey that many aviation OEMs have been enthusiastic to embark on, and in doing so, I believe they are blazing a trail that motivates and inspires other industries to follow suit.


For more information on how Burloak enables aviation OEMs to reap the benefits of AM visit: