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Aerospace 3D printing: the simplest way to fabricate advanced composite and metal parts

From on-demand MRO and spare parts in commercial aviation to innovation in Urban Air Mobility, aerospace industry leaders are improving responsiveness to rapidly shifting supply chains and labor availability with Additive Manufacturing.

The Digital Forge gives modern manufacturers the simplest way to build with materials they already know. Fabricate end-use carbon fiber composites unattended, overnight. Skip multi-week lead times and expedite fees for metal and composite prototypes, tools, and fixtures.

For the first time, Markforged supports ULTEM™ 9085 Filament on the Digital Forge. The FX20 3D printer can reinforce ULTEM™ Filament with continuous Carbon Fiber, bringing composite strength to an aerospace ready material. Traceable, flight-ready Onyx FR-A and Carbon Fiber FR-A provide another flame retardant printing solution.

*The ULTEM™ and 9085 trademarks are used under license from SABIC, its affiliates or subsidiaries.

Traceable, Purpose-Built Materials

ULTEM™ 9085 Filament, Onyx FR-A and Carbon Fiber FR-A are all lot-qualified, flame-retardant materials. Each is purpose-built for the requirements of the aerospace, transportation and automotive industries. FR-A materials establish lot-level material traceability and pass the test suite necessary for qualification under 14 CFR 25.853 for most 3D-printable parts. Onyx FR-A and Carbon Fiber FR-A as printed on the Markforged X7 are undergoing qualification through the NCAMP process.

Prepared for Regulated Applications

Markforged recognizes the advanced regulatory and functional requirements of the aerospace industry. Traceable materials, software version-locking for parts, Blacksmith in-process laser inspection, and ongoing NCAMP qualification for Onyx FR-A and Carbon Fiber FR-A on the X7 provide the foundations for accelerating the path from digital art to flying part.

On-Demand, Distributed Manufacturing

Turn the supply chain into a competitive advantage with distributed manufacturing at bases, airports, and maintenance depots. With a digital library and on-demand fabrication, get MRO and spare parts where and when you need them with the only additive manufacturing platform built to go anywhere.

Join industry leaders by investing in additive

  • Airbus
  • Blue origin
  • Bae systems
  • Lufthansa
  • Nasa

“In aerospace, it's important to have quality parts we can adapt on the fly to make any changes the customer requests.”

Jeff Pike, VP of Engineering, Cabin Management Solutions (CMS)

ULTEM™ 9085 Filament: Aerospace Ready Polymer

Long used as a high value aerospace polymer, ULTEM™ 9085 Filament is now printable on the FX20. Its superior performance in flame, toxicity, and smoke (FST) tests and its high strength make it a choses material for aircraft and spacecraft alike.

The FX20 is Markforged’s new flagship 3D printer — capable of reinforcing ULTEM™ 9085 Filament with continuous Carbon Fiber.

Onyx FR-A and Carbon Fiber FR-A:

Traceable, Flame-Retardant Composites

Purpose-built for the requirements of the aerospace, transportation and automotive industries, FR-A materials establish lot-level material traceability and pass the test suite necessary for qualification under 14 CFR 25.853 for most 3D-printable parts.

Onyx FR-A and Carbon Fiber FR-A as printed on the Markforged X7 are undergoing qualification through the NCAMP process.

Example Documentation for Traceable Materials

Digital Forge for 3D printed aerospace tooling

JJ Churchill trusts the precision and unmatched strength of Markforged’s fiber-reinforced Onyx material. Find out how JJC and over 100+ of the world’s top manufacturers use the Markforged platform to dream bigger and accomplish more.

Once we realized the directional strength properties available with the Markforged products, we haven’t used anything else.”
– Karan Singh, Manufacturing Engineer, JJ Churchill
Drill templates are a common tool used across many industries in manufacturing and are heavily relied on in aerospace tooling. When a drilling operation has to be performed by hand, custom tooling needs to be developed to simplify the process and make it repeatable. A drill template tool makes a cumbersome drilling operation as simple as locating the tool and then drill the hole.

Why invest in Markforged 3D printers?

  • Secure cloud infrastructure enables on-demand manufacturing at the point of need
  • Low overhead, facilities requirements, and cost of ownership for continuous carbon fiber composite solutions
  • Cabin-quality surface finish without additional post-processing
  • Ready for decorative finishes (plating, veneer, paint)
  • NCAMP qualification is underway for traceable, flame-retardant composite printing materials Onyx FR-A and Carbon Fiber FR-A

High-value aerospace applications

  • Lightweight cabin components
  • Brackets, harnesses, and sensor mounts
  • Precision inspection tooling
  • Workholding
  • Functional prototypes

Featured content

Aerospace 3D Printing FAQs

3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is transforming the aerospace industry’s supply chains: enabling faster, more cost-effective production of high-performance parts right where they’re needed. Manufacturers can move faster on projects by shortening lead times for a wide range of specialized tooling, prototypes, and end-use parts.

Compared to traditional manufacturing, 3D printing in aerospace offers several major advantages.

  • Costs and lead times for customized parts are drastically lower

  • Parts can be lightweighted without compromising on strength

  • 3D printing offers superior design freedom, with the ability to fabricate complex geometries and consolidate assemblies into single parts

  • Traceable materials engineered specifically for the aerospace industry simplify compliance

Aerospace manufacturers can 3D print aircraft components such as engine parts, turbine blades, brackets, ducting, lightweight panels, and interior cabin elements. Frequently printed non-production parts include custom jigs, fixtures, tooling, surrogate parts, and prototypes.

Given the tightly regulated industry, 3D printing for the aerospace industry requires advanced, compliance-friendly materials. Lightweight, high-performance composites with traceability such as Onyx FR-A have been engineered specifically for aerospace applications. Stainless steel, pure Copper, Inconel, and tool steels can also be utilized when metal is needed.

With high-performance materials available, many 3D-printed aerospace parts exhibit comparable or superior performance to traditionally manufactured parts. 3D printing offers potential for better-optimized designs and can reduce weight without compromising strength.

Many 3D-printed aerospace parts have obtained certification from aviation regulatory bodies like the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). Choosing materials that will meet compliance testing requirements, such as Onyx FR-A and Carbon Fiber FR-A, can make this process much faster and less complicated.

Yes, 3D printing can significantly reduce lead times and costs in aerospace manufacturing. Production on-site makes supply chains much faster, frequently cutting lead times of weeks or months down to just hours or days. This benefit extends to everything from prototypes to custom tooling and production aircraft components.