We already know that 3D-printing has revolutionized the way we can make everyday objects from Lego pieces, to guitars, and from car bodies to artificial livers. But the scale of this change could be much, much bigger if the “printers” themselves scale up enough to incorporate structures as large as airplanes.
Bastian Schaefer, a cabin engineer with Airbus, has been working for the last two years on a concept cabin that envisions what the future of flight would look like from the passenger’s perspective. From that came a radical concept: build the aircraft itself from the ground up with a 3D printer that’s very large in deed, ie. as big as an aircraft hangar. That probably sounds like a long shot, since the biggest 3D printers today are about the size of a dining table. But the Airbus design comes with a roadmap, from 3D-printing small components now, through to the plane as a whole around 2050.