The world is standing on the precipice of a revolution in manufacturing technology. In accordance, additive manufacturing (AM), or industrial 3D printing, has emerged as a game-changing technology with transformative implications for the aerospace and defense industries. By leveraging advanced AM patents, companies in these sectors are pioneering new frontiers in efficiency, cost reduction, and design possibilities. Inkwood Research predicts the global additive manufacturing in aerospace & defense market to surge with a 20.48% CAGR by 2032, generating a revenue of $17.88 billion during the forecast period, 2023-2032.
The shift toward additive manufacturing allows for better traceability throughout the production stages, promoting a more streamlined manufacturing process. As the costs of 3D printing technology continue to decrease, the industry sees the potential for shorter production times, further enhancing the attractiveness of this emerging manufacturing method.
Aerospace and Defense Industries: A Fertile Ground for Additive Manufacturing
Additive manufacturing’s disruptive potential is particularly apparent in the aerospace and defense industries. Lockheed Martin, for example, has utilized the technology to produce intricate satellite parts. “With additive, you can go through five iterations of a design before you’d even get the first ones through a traditional method, and all five of those together will probably cost less than one traditional iteration,” explains Scott Killian, Aerospace Business Development Manager at EOS North America. [Source: engineering.com]
Similarly, General Electric has made significant strides in harnessing AM for jet engine production, resulting in lighter, more fuel-efficient engines. The company’s patents, particularly within the B29C 64 CPC (AM using plastics), showcase a strong commitment to leveraging AM for aerospace advancements. [Source: GE Aviation]
A Patent Overview
Patents serve as crucial innovation indicators, providing insights into companies’ and institutions’ technological focus and research directions. A report by 1790 Analytics LLC, commissioned by the Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO), analyzed the influence of AMO-funded AM patents. The study revealed a rich tapestry of additive manufacturing patents distributed across various Cooperative Patent Classifications (CPCs), each representing different aspects of AM technology. [Source: Energy.gov]
Key patent assignees include Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRS), Lockheed Martin at Oak Ridge National Lab (ORNL), University of California (LANL; LBNL), General Electric, Lawrence Livermore National Security (LLNL), and Sandia Corporation/NTESS (SNL). These players, amongst others, are set to shape the future of additive manufacturing in the aerospace and defense sectors.
Beyond Borders: Additive Manufacturing Patents in Aerospace & Defense from Around the World
As we delve deeper into the world of additive manufacturing in the aerospace and defense industries, it is crucial to acknowledge that innovation knows no borders. Numerous remarkable inventions have emerged from corners around the world, contributing to the global knowledge pool in this transformative technology. These patents, granted in various countries, symbolize the international reach and universal potential of additive manufacturing.
Here’s a glimpse of some major patents:
- Patent Number IAC-18C29: NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) is leading the way in the incorporation of Additive Manufacturing (AM) into aerospace industries, revolutionizing the sector with its In-Space Manufacturing (ISM) initiative. The adoption of AM has been expedited by its capability to drive innovation, facilitate rapid development, and provide affordability. MSFC’s commitment to AM is also demonstrated by creating a standard and a specification for AM space flight hardware, released in 2017. [Source: NASA]
- Patent Number US10486330B2 Chinese researchers are considering using 3D printing for lunar construction, potentially employing a laser-based method to create building blocks from lunar soil or adapting WinSun’s technology, which already has 3D-printed buildings on Earth from recycled waste. This technique could reduce construction costs and allow for design flexibility, using lunar regolith as raw material. The success of this method could herald a significant step in space exploration and potentially enable long-term human presence on the moon. [Source: Google Patent, 3Dnatives]
The Road Ahead: Opportunities and Challenges
In a world where innovation is key to staying competitive, the aerospace and defense industries are leveraging the power of additive manufacturing to break new ground. As AM technology evolves, the patent landscape will remain a crucial barometer of progress, pointing toward new advancements and applications that will shape the industry’s future. As exciting as the opportunities are, adopting AM also presents challenges. Intellectual property protection is a significant concern in the fast-paced AM landscape, as it is critical to safeguard the investment in research and development that these patents represent.
Dr. Thomas Kurfess, Chief Manufacturing Officer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, emphasizes the importance of a robust patent strategy: Technology is moving right along, and there is a lot of opportunity for innovation—and I see us as the enablers for innovation. What we’re about is innovating faster than the competition can copy.” [Source- Armed Forces Communications & Electronics Association International (AFCEA)]
As the AM patent landscape continues to evolve, we can expect to see further technological breakthroughs and innovative applications that are expected to shape the future of the global additive manufacturing in aerospace and defense market.
What are the key growth drivers of the global additive manufacturing in aerospace and defense market?
Fastened production timelines, supply chain disruptions, increased efficiency requirements, minimal processing and manufacturing costs, and reduced raw material usage are the key growth drivers of the global additive manufacturing in aerospace and defense market.
What is the leading material in the global additive manufacturing in aerospace and defense market?
Special metals (titanium, gold, silver, platinum, palladium, etc.) are expected to be the leading material in the global additive manufacturing in aerospace and defense market.