While the aerospace giants, like Airbus, are working to get 3D printed components into the largest of jumbo jets, additive manufacturing (AM) in aerospace is continuing apace across the industry. This includes the use of 3D printing for maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO), where a variety of firms, from Air New Zealand to Lufthansa, are exploring the use of the technology to produce on-demand replacement parts. So far, these have been the projects of larger airlines, but Cabin Management Systems (CMS) is using Markforged machines to 3D print parts for its own MRO services for luxury aircraft.
The type of luxury aircraft worked on by CMS. Image courtesy of Markforged.
CMS is a comparatively new company, founded in 2019. It works alongside MRO companies and individual aircraft owners to create cabin control and entertainment systems for luxury, private, and business jets. Using two Markforged X7 3D printers, the company is 3D printing parts for maintenance, upgrades, and replacements of cabin management and entertainment systems.
Parts made with Markforged Onyx FR by Cabin Management Systems. Image courtesy of Markforged/YouTube.
Key to the operation is the use of Markforged Onyx FR material, which offers the flame retardant properties and FAA compliance necessary for in-cabin items. Additionally, the components made with Onyx FR are described as high strength and low weight. Altogether, the process speeds up the time it takes to make new parts for an aircraft, but also allows the company to repair or replace obsolete items. Jeff Pike, VP of Engineering at CMS, explained how the technology is ideal for their niche sector:
“In the aerospace industry, quality and on-the-fly adaptability are crucial to success. We often have to produce low-volume, high-value parts from scratch which can be time- and labor-intensive. Markforged’s X7 allows us to do this quickly and more efficiently, while ensuring functionality and retaining the upscale aesthetics expected in luxury aircrafts.”
3D printed panel housings made with Markforged Onyx FR by Cabin Management Systems. Image courtesy of Markforged/YouTube.
In one case, the CMS team 3D printed some 100 parts for an aircraft. These included 20 light switch panels, a cabin climate controller, and USB-C and drop-in USB-A chargers, as well as latches, release buttons, and adjustable touch screen brackets. To create a luxury finish, the parts may be customized with inlays, such as gold metal electroplating or wood veneer.
At the moment, CMS must have its projects approved on a case-by-case basis; however, Markforged is in the process of qualifying aerospace-ready grades of its Onyx FR and Carbon Fiber FR materials by the National Center for Advanced Materials Performance. Once approved, Onyx FR-A and Carbon Fiber FR-A components will be able to be more quickly integrated into aircraft, allowing CMS to take on more jobs more quickly.