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News   •   Apr 24, 2017 13:00 CEST

3D Printing

By Dr Jörg Rissiek, Head of Corporate Strategy and Projects

In the global commercial aviation material services market key players like Satair Group are constantly listening to, evaluating and understanding what their customers are telling them and then, in responding to customer demands, helping to shape the way that the market develops.

Satair Group is in a strong position to identify these emerging trends – it distributes more than 600,000 different parts for well over 150 key suppliers to more than 600 airline and MRO customers worldwide – making us one of the global leading providers of material solutions for the commercial aviation market. As such, we are in daily contact with all key market players.

Efficient material services are of fundamental importance in commercial aviation. Airlines acquire an individual aircraft only once, but to keep that aircraft flying they will need spare parts over the full operational cycle of that aircraft, which will be for decades and in a highly dynamic environment.

So, in the event of an aircraft part becoming defective, the availability of the right spare part at the right location and at the exact time itis needed, is crucial. Satair Group operates its material network to serve both material suppliers and airline customers with an efficient global network and integrated performance-based services, connecting efficiently both ends of the market at minimum transaction costs.

With its finger right on the pulse of this rapidly evolving market, Satair Group notes how it

is maturing and developing very quickly due to several new market and innovation trends in the industry affectingboth the business model and the structure of the aviation services material flow.

Two of these trends are the growth in market penetration of Used Parts as well as the new value chain set-ups through Additive Manufacturing/3D printing.

Growth in Used/Serviceable Parts

Satair Group believes that this important market segment, will continue to grow steadily over the next years. In 2015 the global market size was over 4 billion US Dollars; we are forecasting over 6 percent growth per annum in the mid-term.

Part of the reason for this is the increasing number of aircraft retirements as airlines and leasing companies will continue to invest in acquiring new, more fuel-efficient aircraft to replace aging legacy fleets. In the mid-term this shall account for up to three percent at any given year of the flying global fleet.

In the shorter term, this retirement trend could well be slower due to the current macroeconomic conditions. Still very low oil and fuel prices mean that some airlines and leasing companies will keep older aircraft flying for a further limited time, while low interest rates makes fleet roll-overs cheaper. But, at any time soon, the fleet roll-over trend will fully kick-in.

As a consequence of this roll-over/retirement trend there will be a much higher market presence for more and for a wider range of used parts coming from parting-out older aircraft fleets. This trend will make used parts a more important, specific material category with dedicated value chain elements, especially through the dismantling and re-certification processes for additional used parts coming from retired aircraft. These used/serviceable parts will be offered increasingly by Satair Group as complementary material to new parts in our integrated comprehensive parts portfolio.

Satair Group, together with its partners all along the used parts value chain, is already leading the way in providing used/serviceable Airbus parts from dismantled A320 and A330 families aircraft and is planning to extend the scope. Airbus Engineering is providing us their in-depth expertise to make the dismantled parts serviceable again. Critically, the highest standards are enforced with total parts traceability, transparency and reliability, and we are working with a network of approved repair stations and distribution partners to meet the highest OEM engineering, airworthiness, safety and certification standards.

Value chain for Additive Manufacturing/3D printing

Much has been written about the exciting developments in additive manufacturing and several of our aerospace OEM partners are developing 3D printing solutions to meet specific individual parts production requirements.

Additive manufacturing is an innovative technology that has recently shown its potential to revolutionise entire industries. Satair Group believes that it will have strong effects on the material value chain of aircraft maintenance too, with the potential to change the set-up of spare material production for literally thousands of part numbers for airframes, engines, cabin and equipment.

The benefits of additive manufacturing in the commercial and military aviation industry include faster lead times, especially for out-of-production or individual parts, less complex and lighter designs, and avoiding expensive production tooling. The main driver for using this technology specifically in the services market is the flexible and efficient production of smaller volumes, as well as the big opportunity to offer customised solutions to airlines.

We certified the first additive layer manufactured parts were applied for n-service aircraft in 2014. Since then, Airbus and Satair Group are continuously expanding the application parts scope, including new customised services and currently having more than 150 additive manufactured parts certified and available on the market.

Examples of this are our 3D printed blanking plate for seat armrests on Jetstar’s A330 fleet as well as a plastic panel which is installed behind the crew seat, and which prevents the seat belt from slipping behind the seat, and which was 3D printed for Air Transat’s A310 fleet in Canada.

More excitingly, additive manufacturing might even enable new logistics and business models, such as local on-site production. This, however, entails many challenges which are currently being investigated by our experts in the Additive Manufacturing team. Additive manufacturing will start to show its full potential as a new stream in the value chain serving specific customer demands in the next few years. Consequently, additive manufacturing will reduce the need for storage for an increasing number of parts.

Satair Group believes that new market segments such as used parts and additive manufacturing/3D printing will contribute to more opportunities along the material value chain. The strategies of the market players in combination with the market and innovation trends will reinforce each other, leading to a high integrative market dynamic for the years to come.

We will keep you updated on the growth of both Used Parts and the Additive Manufacturing business as well as all other major material market trends.

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