The global 3D printing in aerospace and defense market size was valued at USD 1.35 billion in 2021. It is anticipated to reach an expected value of USD 8.66 billion by 2030, registering a CAGR of 26.1% during the forecast period (2022–2030). The process of depositing, joining, or solidifying material while under computer control to produce a three-dimensional solid object from a digital file is called 3D printing or additive manufacturing. Over time, 3D printing has helped design and component integration be more expedient, affordable, and straightforward. Several aerospace OEMs are currently funding extensive research initiatives to maximize the use of 3D-printed parts and components in more recent models of aircraft and spacecraft.
Additionally, the aftermarket sector is seeing an increase in the utilization of 3D-printed parts as their use may ease the strain on conventional supply chains. The advantages of 3D printing have made it more common in the aviation industry. With shorter lead times, fewer production costs, and more flexible digital design and development processes, 3D printing generates parts. Both users and manufacturers significantly reduce their costs by using 3D printing.
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Growing Adoption of 3D-Printed Parts in Aerospace Supply Chains
Militaries focus on procuring newer-generation aircraft that offer a significant technological edge over their adversaries. The design and manufacturing of new aircraft are focused on weight reduction, which has given rise to developing new materials and manufacturing processes. The aerospace industry is among the early adopters of 3D printing, and large-scale research is underway to increase the use of 3D-printed parts and components in newer aircraft. The last three years have seen multiple landmark announcements in the aerospace 3D printing sector.
Airbus has begun using additive manufacturing for the tooling and prototyping commercial aircraft parts. Around 2,700 3D-printed plastic parts have been introduced on the company's new A350 XWB. Airbus also makes 3D-printed parts for the single-aisle A320neo and the A330/A310 aircraft. Boeing's 777X is another example of the increasing adoption of 3D printing in the aerospace industry. The 777X, projected to enter service by 2022, features two GE9X engines with around 300 3D-printed parts, including fuel nozzles, temperature sensors, heat exchanges, and LP turbine blades.
The adoption of 3D-printed parts in engine systems is increasing. In June 2021, GE announced that it had received an Engineering Change Proposal approval from the US Air Force for an additive manufactured sump cover for the F110 that powers the Lockheed Martin F-16, among other aircraft. The US Department of Defense has certified it as the first engine part created for and made with metal 3D printing technology. These innovations are anticipated to encourage the use of 3D-printed components in the aerospace industry, fueling the market's expansion.
Reduction of Processing and Manufacturing Cost
3D printing has made components' design process and implementation faster, less expensive, and simpler. It has also enabled the incorporation of all components into a single structure, eliminating the need for external joints, adhesives, and fasteners. This elimination of extra components prevents additional costs in the manufacturing process.
The aviation industry has become a driving force behind the evolution of this technology. Airlines depend on 3D printing to alleviate supply chain constraints, limit warehouse space, and reduce waste materials from traditional manufacturing processes. Aircraft production relies indirectly on 3D printing for larger volumes of units. Since 3D printing is faster and better equipped to build complex parts, it is often used as a master pattern in urethane casting for significant interior components for aircraft.
Since 3D printing involves adding material instead of removing it, this process drastically reduces the waste generated during manufacturing. According to Airbus, 3D-printed parts lessen the weight and any inefficiencies while improving the strength of components. The method also dramatically reduces production time and waste, with an average of 5% of waste material reportedly produced. Such waste reduction may also translate to significant cost savings during manufacturing. In addition, the rapid production of aircraft parts on demand saves enormous amounts of Space, time, and money. Cumulatively, these advantages are driving the adoption of 3D printing in the aerospace sector.
Although 3D printing is becoming more widely utilized in the A&D industry, considerable obstacles still stand in the way of its widespread adoption. The potential for widespread use of the method is constrained by 3D printing's inability to generate pieces from different materials. The materials compatible with the current 3D printing technology are limited to a small group of polymers and metal powders. However, these are costly compared to the materials used in the traditional manufacturing processes for aircraft parts, which lowers the incentives to use additive manufacturing in production. Many players focus on selecting cost-effective materials, bringing the overall costs down.
Unlike traditional manufacturing, the current 3D printing systems may not be able to scale up production in case of sudden increases in demand. With scalability being an aspect of strategic importance in the aviation industry, the market players focus on addressing the issue. To meet the needs of the aviation sector for mass production, many additive manufacturing service providers are attempting to speed up the current methods. Another major challenge of additive manufacturing is the inability to manufacture large and odd-sized aviation parts. The production of specific significant aircraft components can be done more efficiently through traditional manufacturing than 3D printing. Such factors hamper market growth.
Increasing Use of ULTEM Materials and Focus on Greener Aircraft
ULTEM materials are adopted in the aerospace industry owing to their heat resistance. Companies are increasingly using ULTEM materials for manufacturing inner shells containing all the necessary mounting structures. The advancement in ULTEM materials is expected to provide future growth opportunities to the market.
Furthermore, the applications of 3D printing may continue to grow in the years to come. The focus on greener aircraft may also benefit from the possibilities that 3D printing offers, as some technical solutions are highly complex to be manufactured by conventional machining processes, limiting the adoption of these solutions. 3D printing can potentially solve these issues and help in popularizing novel solutions. Furthermore, emerging technologies like Urban Air Mobility may be among the first significant adopters of 3D printing, as 3D printing technology is expected to mature when these technologies enter their commercialization phase. Such factors provide lucrative opportunities for market growth.
The global 3D printing in aerospace and defense market is segmented by application, material, and region.
By Application, the global 3D printing in aerospace and defense market is segmented into Aircraft, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, and Spacecraft.
The Aircraft segment accounts for the largest market share and is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 29.7% during the forecast period. Companies like Boeing and Airbus predict aggressive growth in the civil aviation market by stating the requirement of 43,500 new aircraft by 2040, allowing the global aircraft fleet to surpass the demand for 50,000 operational aircraft. Innovative 3D printing technologies are expected to save time and money by automating and improving the operational efficiency of manufacturing, forcing industry players to use them due to aggressive growth opportunities and increasing backlogs caused by slow manufacturing capabilities due to a lack of technological integration.
The Unmanned Aerial Vehicles segment is the second largest. UAV marketing is gaining popularity due to its varied scope of application in the military, public and private sectors. Specifically developed for military applications, UAVs are also extensively used for commercial and recreational purposes. Large and complex UAVs cater larger market share within the defense vertical, whereas lightweight UAVs rule the commercial market space. Complex inner assemblies and limited internal and external Space have generated the demand for 3D printing technologies within the segment.
By Material, the global 3D printing in aerospace and defense market is segmented into Alloys and Special Metals.
The Special Metal segment accounts for the largest market share and is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 24.4% during the forecast period. The segment includes various materials such as titanium, gold, silver, platinum, and palladium. Special metals are primarily used in jet aircraft or spacecraft structural components, allowing companies to explore design and manufacturing freedom.
Efforts to increase manufacturing capabilities by levering additive manufacturing technologies through space metals are another significant market accelerator. For instance, in February 2021, Orbex announced its plans to build a large-volume 3D printer for manufacturing its rocket engines. After the post conclusion of the printer, the company will be able to manufacture more than 35 rocket engines every year. The made-in-space concept has also attracted several startups and influential organizations to invest in additive manufacturing technologies. Such factors propel the segment.
Europe Surpasses Others
By Region, the global 3D printing in aerospace and defense market is segmented into North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, and LAMEA.
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Europe commands the market and is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 24.4% during the forecast period. The United Kingdom is a hub for the R&D of advanced materials for the aerospace sector, and the presence of several aerospace incumbents creates a steady demand for advanced composites. Hence, regional subsidiaries of leading global market players enhance their capabilities by fostering organic and inorganic growth. On this note, in February 2021, Collins Aerospace, a part of Raytheon Technologies Corporation, announced investing in a new multi-axis composite braider for its Banbury facility. The company has also collaborated with three other companies, Composite Integration, Crompton Mouldings, and Bitrez, to support the manufacturing of next-generation continuous fiber-reinforced components with complex shapes, focusing on system simplification, weight reduction, and cost competitiveness. Such developments are expected to render a positive outlook for the UK market during the forecast period.
North America is the second-largest region and is anticipated to reach an expected value of USD 4,530 million by 2030, registering a CAGR of 25.2%. Primary industry players and consumers, like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and NASA, have embraced 3D printing technologies, elevating the market demand. Boeing has long been a significant player in the field of 3D printing, particularly in the area of satellites, and in 2019 the company produced the first 3D-printed antennae. Relatively Space, a new company, has also been pushing the market by creating its first entirely 3D-printed rocket, called the "Terran 1." Its most recent iteration, "Terran R," will be 3D printed and reusable. Lockheed Martin and Relativity Space have also teamed together for a planned NASA mission in 2023 involving building specialized rockets.
Infrastructure investment by industry players and support by local authorities towards such technological advancement has played a significant role in allowing the United States to capture the highest market share over the coming years. For instance, in September 2021, Terran Orbital, a nano and microsatellite developer, announced a USD 300 million investment in one of Florida's largest commercial spacecraft facilities. The facility is spread across 660,000 sq ft. of the area and leverages a range of 3D printing technologies, allowing the facility to manufacture thousands of space components in a year. Such developments drive the market in the US.
Asia-Pacific is the third-largest region. The Chinese government has identified the development of aeronautical technology and 3D printing as two major growth drivers of the country's industrial industries under the Made in China 2025 vision. The rapidly growing market opportunities encourage players to form strategic alliances and expand their production capabilities in China. On this note, in August 2021, Kaneka Aerospace LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Kaneka Americas Holding Inc., announced its partnership with Shanghai Huazheng Composites Co. Ltd to extend its footprint in the growing composites market in China. Kaneka Aerospace manufactures specialty high-performance composite materials serving a variety of diverse needs. Such developments may render a positive outlook for the market in China during the forecast period.