KLM Goes Circular by 3D Printing Tools from PET Bottles

Dutch airline KLM has been using 3D printing to introduce a sustainable new model of printing tools and components. The company has become the first airline in the world to recycle plastic bottles in producing repair tools for its fleet. They provide plastic bottles from their flights to the Morssinkhof Rymoplast recycling company and in return, KLM receives high-quality plastic pellets which they use for their operations.

Not only is KLM’s model cheaper and more eco-friendly, but it’s also faster. The airline says that they are improving production speeds and repair times with the use of their Ultimaker S5 Pro Bundle. There are a bunch of other ways it is using 3D printing such as replacing tape with 3D printed cover when conducting maintenance checks on turbine blades. They also developed plugs for covering rim holes on a Boeing 737s wheels to prevent them from getting painted over.

On average, KLM needs 1.5kg of filament for its printers per day. Due to its alliance with the Morssinkhof Rymoplast recycling company and Reflow for printer filament, it’s been able to reduce the cost for filament by over 70%. Printer filament now costs KLM €17 per kg, saving it €64.50 each day. Such a 3D printing model would be beneficial to airlines, and it appears they are already taking note of the benefits of additive manufacturing.

Consistent & Sustainable Airline Parts

Other Airlines are also looking to applying 3D printing and making great strides in creating consistency standards for better components. Global engineering standards association SAE International has published its first specifications for additive manufacturing polymers used in the aerospace sector. These new specifications specifically entail the use of FFF/FDM and its associated materials. These specifications came at the request of airlines seeking to apply additive manufacturing to the production of plastic cabin parts, such as monitor surrounds, spacer panels and armrests.

The organization believes that the introduction of these standards will help promote 3D printing for aircraft cabin parts. SAE International has published a whole range of info about metal usage in aerospace. This includes standards for laser powder bed fusion (LPBF) among other technologies. Working with aerospace suppliers like Norsk Titanium, they also developed specifications for currently emerging additive manufacturing technologies. So far, the AMS-AM committee for this development has published a total of nine specifications for metal 3D printing, with plans to introduce more in the future.

Both additive manufacturing users and producers will benefit from implementing AMS-AM standards. These standards help define a consistent set of materials and process limits that both the user and producer agree to in support of part procurement activities. Paul Jonas, Director of Technology Development & Programs at NIAR and AMS-AM-P Chair.

AMS-AM-P Specifications

The new AMS-AM-P specifications for polymers are AMS7100: FFF Process and AMS7101: Material for FFF. The former specifies critical controls and requirements to repeatably produce parts with Stratasys’ trademark FDM technology and other material extrusion processes. Future users can employ the specs in approving new machines process, materials and research into future aircraft parts. The AMS7101 specification outlines technical information, production guidelines and documentation requirements for material manufacturers.


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