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Canadian Aerospace Finds AM

March 16, 2013

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 16:03

I had the privilege of attending a special series of meetings involving companies from Canada’s aerospace industry. Bell Helicopter, Bombardier, and Pratt & Whitney Canada are collaborating with the support of the Consortium for Research and Innovation in Aerospace in Québec (CRIAQ) to evaluate opportunities in additive manufacturing. CRIAQ is a government-supported organization with a mission to increase the competitiveness of the Canadian aerospace industry. In its 10 years of operation, it has managed a portfolio of 142 research projects valued at $124 million.

Last Thursday, CRIAQ convened more than 120 people, mostly from the Canadian aerospace industry in Montreal, to learn more about the current state and future potential of additive manufacturing. The day involved small group meetings, one-on-one discussions, and a keynote presentation that dove into the prospects and challenges offered by AM. I was impressed by the level of interest and enthusiasm by the group. By consensus, the companies chose AM as an area of focus because of its potential for manufacturing aircraft parts.

Credit goes to Dr. Clément Fortin, president and CEO of CRIAQ, for bringing together key managers and executives from these companies. I have not seen this kind of collaboration and excitement in some time. They are currently evaluating options for research and development and are determined to forge a path that will benefit their companies and the Canadian aerospace industry. It is the kind of interest and determination I saw in the early years of additive manufacturing among major corporations in the U.S.

Will the effort succeed? I expect it will. At the very least, they will learn a great deal from the work. It looks like it is bringing together many of the right people and they are asking many of the right questions. They can benefit from the more than two decades of development in AM. Most of that time has been spent on prototyping applications, so these companies and several universities in the Montreal area are hoping to help take AM to the next level. Given what I learned this week, there’s a good chance they will be instrumental in advancing the development and application of AM technology, whether it is in new materials, processes, design innovation, or something else.