Airbus reveals THOR 3D-printed plane


Airbus unveiled a subscale aircraft at last week’s ILA Berlin Air Show that was manufactured via 3D printing technology.

Airbus debuted a fully 3D-printed subscale plane last week at the ILA Berlin Air Show. The name THOR (Test of High-tech Objectives in Reality) refers to the research purpose of the aircraft, whose design enables early in-flight testing of new types of wings and control surfaces, which can be rapidly printed and installed on the aircraft.

The prototype is 4m (13ft) long with a similar wingspan, Airbus reports. It weighs 21kg (31 lb). Only two electric motors, batteries and a radio control system were required beyond about 50 individual components that were 3D printed and assembled. The current size of 3D printers means that most parts are 40cm (15in) or less in size.

THOR is a pioneering development and “by 2025 we will be able to use printers to produce bionic aircraft structures”, commented Peter Sander, who is responsible for new technology at Airbus Germany.

Boeing and Airbus both use 3D printing to make some aircraft parts, including for the A350 and the B787 Dreamliner.

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