The aerospace and defense industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by the pressing need for modernization, and the growing importance of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), unmanned systems, 3D printing, and composite materials technology. In the last three years alone, there have been over 237,000 patents filed and granted in the aerospace and defense industry, according to GlobalData’s report on 3D printing in defense: aerospace 3D printing. Buy the report here.
According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which uses over 206,000 patents to analyze innovation intensity for the aerospace and defense industry, there are 110 innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.
Aerospace 3D printing is a key innovation area in 3D printing
Aerospace 3D Printing involves the use of additive manufacturing techniques to design, prototype, and manufacture aerospace components and parts. It enables the production of high-quality and complex designs, reduces cost, improves efficiency, and enhances durability of the parts used in the aerospace industry.
GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 50+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established aerospace and defense companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of aerospace 3D printing.
Key players in aerospace 3D printing – a disruptive innovation in the aerospace and defense industry
‘Application diversity’ measures the number of applications identified for each patent. It broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.
‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of countries each patent is registered in. It reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.
Patent volumes related to aerospace 3D printing
Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics
Airbus is one of the leading patent filers in aerospace 3D printing. It filed patents related to the method and system of adapting a 3D printing model for use in additive layer manufacturing (ALM), selective laser sintering (SLS) and/or solid freeform fabrication (SFF) processes, and advanced 3D printing methods and apparatus for producing various aircraft components, including metal components and structural fiber-reinforced composite components for the fuselage of an aircraft or spacecraft.
The company is using 3D-printed lighter parts to retrofit aircraft and produce prototype airplanes and components, to reduce emissions, improve fuel and resource efficiency, and leverage the quick and highly flexible manufacturing capability.
Airbus Helicopters, the helicopter manufacturing division of Airbus, opened a new 3D printing center at its main helicopter production site in Donauworth, Germany, in October 2023. The company operates three types of 3D printing machines to produce composite components made of titanium, plastic, and aluminum.
In terms of application diversity, Textron, Dassault Group, and MBDA France are some of the leading innovators. By means of geographic reach, some of the leading patent filers include MBDA France, Redwire, and Airbus.
To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the aerospace and defense industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on 3D Printing in Aerospace and Defense.