Airbus Tests Flight with 3D-Printed Primary Flight Control Component

The spoiler actuator valve block, made by Liebherr-Aerospace, was successfully tested on an Airbus A380 aircraft.

Airbus has successfully flown its first aircraft with a 3D-printed primary flight control hydraulic component, a spoiler actuator valve block on a test flight of an A380. The valve block, made from titanium powder, is part of a spoiler actuator made by Liebherr-Aerospace and provides primary flight control functions on board the A380.

The 3D-printed component provides the same performance as the conventionally produced version, but is 35 percent lighter and consists of fewer parts, Liebherr says. The additive manufacturing process is also less complex than the traditional milling method and is more material efficient.

Liebherr-Aerospace developed the 3D-printed hydraulic component in close cooperation with Airbus and the Chemnitz University of Technology in Germany. The project was partly funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy.

Liebherr-Aerospace & Transportation SAS is already working on the next generation of 3D-printed hydraulic and electro-mechanic components, including an integrated rudder actuator. Unlike the conventionally produced version, the 3D-printed component does not feature a separate valve block or cylinder housing, or an extra reservoir. All parts are built into one monolithic, compact housing.

The next generation of additive manufacturing technology will further influence the design process of components. Liebherr-Aerospace estimates that the resulting weight savings at system level could contribute to a reduction of fuel consumption as well as CO2 and NOx emissions of future aircraft.