Computer Aided Design Helps Aerospace Companies Improve Production

Airplane manufacturer Airbus found itself with a problem in recent years. It had to cut costs and find a way to meet its order schedule, which it had fallen behind on. The company found an innovative solution when it adopted new CAD conversion practices for its manufacturing process, a move that enabled it to meet its goals for order deadlines and operational cost reduction.

Simplified Production

The aircraft manufacturer Airbus recently announced that they had ordered and successfully received over 1,000 flight parts for their vehicles that were produced via additive manufacturing/3D printing, produced by the company Stratasys. Because aeronautical engineering involves the design and creation of incredibly complex and detailed parts, production of new parts is often a long and expensive process, and left little room for flexibility in the supply chain and manufacturing schedules. This left Airbus struggling to meet its delivery commitments, and looking for new solutions that would enable it to produce parts for its vehicles more quickly and reliably which still maintained the quality control standards the company required.

Partnering with Stratasys turned out to be the perfect solution. Instead of using a traditional manufacturing process, in which complex and fragile parts had to be assembled manually, Airbus ordered parts for their A350 XWB planes that would instead be created through the use of computer aided design, and then assembled via 3D printing. This resulted in digitally created airplane parts that, according to the company, met smoke, fire, and toxicity compliance standards, and which were produced for a fraction of the cost of traditional production.

The partnership between the two companies began in 2013. By December 2014, they had delivered their first new CAD-manufactured airplane to Qatar airways.

Improved Manufacturing

Through the company’s new CAD-enabled manufacturing process, which it has dubbed “PolyJet,” Airbus solved a pressing supply problem and was able to meet commitments that its traditional manufacturing methods would not have allowed it to meet. But, more than that, it also improved the quality of parts the company was producing. As is often the case with CAD-designed, 3D printed parts, Airbus’ newly produced parts were more lightweight than the ones it had previously made, while still having the same level of structural integrity.

The result: better parts that are less expensive and faster to produce, and an improved “buy-to-fly” ratio.

Airbus isn’t the only company that is taking notice of the cost cutting, quality boosting potential of adopting CAD-driven manufacturing. Stratasys is already partnering with companies from multiple industries, ranging from other aerospace companies, to the auto industry, to medical supply companies and consumer goods manufacturers. By moving from traditional manufacturing and production methods to new, digitally designed and produced additive manufacturing, these companies are hoping to be able to not only speed up their production schedules, but to design and create new products, decentralize operations, and be able to produce new and replacement parts more easily than they have ever been able to before.

The benefits of using CAD are clear, and will only become clearer over time. Using computer-aided modeling and design programs, companies can reduce errors, speed up production time, and create more accurate, detailed plans and models. Q-CAD has been offering CAD conversion services since 1992, and has continued to expand its use of computer aided design to find new ways to better serve our clients and improve our business practices. Learn more about how we use CAD today by calling 800-700-3305.

Airplane in Flight

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