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Additive manufacturing a powerful tool for the aerospace industry

Mahyar Khorasani (School of Engineering, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Melbourne, Australia)
AmirHossein Ghasemi (Department of Mechanical Engineering, Shahid Rajaee Teacher Training University, Tehran, Iran)
Bernard Rolfe (School of Engineering, Deakin University, Victoria, Australia)
Ian Gibson (Department of Design, Production and Management, Fraunhofer Project Centre for Complex System Engineering, University of Twente, Enschede, The Netherlands and School of Engineering, Deakin University, Geelong, Australia)

Rapid Prototyping Journal

ISSN: 1355-2546

Article publication date: 2 September 2021

Issue publication date: 3 January 2022




Additive manufacturing (AM) offers potential solutions when conventional manufacturing reaches its technological limits. These include a high degree of design freedom, lightweight design, functional integration and rapid prototyping. In this paper, the authors show how AM can be implemented not only for prototyping but also production using different optimization approaches in design including topology optimization, support optimization and selection of part orientation and part consolidation. This paper aims to present how AM can reduce the production cost of complex components such as jet engine air manifold by optimizing the design. This case study also identifies a detailed feasibility analysis of the cost model for an air manifold of an Airbus jet engine using various strategies, such as computer numerical control machining, printing with standard support structures and support optimization.


Parameters that affect the production price of the air manifold such as machining, printing (process), feedstock, labor and post-processing costs were calculated and compared to find the best manufacturing strategy.


Results showed that AM can solve a range of problems and improve production by customization, rapid prototyping and geometrical freedom. This case study showed that 49%–58% of the cost is related to pre- and post-processing when using laser-based powder bed fusion to produce the air manifold. However, the cost of pre- and post-processing when using machining is 32%–35% of the total production costs. The results of this research can assist successful enterprises, such as aerospace, automotive and medical, in successfully turning toward AM technology.


Important factors such as validity, feasibility and limitations, pre-processing and monitoring, are discussed to show how a process chain can be controlled and run efficiently. Reproducibility of the process chain is debated to ensure the quality of mass production lines. Post-processing and qualification of the AM parts are also discussed to show how to satisfy the demands on standards (for surface quality and dimensional accuracy), safety, quality and certification. The original contribution of this paper is identifying the main production costs of complex components using both conventional and AM.



Khorasani, M., Ghasemi, A., Rolfe, B. and Gibson, I. (2022), "Additive manufacturing a powerful tool for the aerospace industry", Rapid Prototyping Journal, Vol. 28 No. 1, pp. 87-100.



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