In the report by PwC, 3D Printing: A Potential Game-Changer For Aerospace and Defense the current limitations of 3d printing technologies other than EBM in the defense and aerospace industries are pointed out.
If 3D printing remains confined to prototypes, demo units, and spacecraft, then it won’t be much of a game changer for industry.
Does 3D printing have the potential to significantly change the A&D value chain? Perhaps, but it ultimately will depend on how far 3D printing can improve its quality and its speed.
Product quality is the Achilles’ heel of every production technology. Laser melting has improved significantly over the past several years, but it still produces parts with micro-voids and heat-induced stress. Equipment manufacturers are continuing to improve the deposition quality of this technology, but it will probably never be void-free, thus limiting its use to non-critical load-bearing parts.
Electron Beam Melting (EBM) has emerged as a higher quality alternative to laser melting. The very high-energy density of the electron beam technology enables it to produce fully dense,void-free parts.
Electron Beam Melting technology is increasingly being used in the manufacture and repair of turbine blades.