Space applications such as the 3D Printer operating on the International Space Station are especially appealing opportunities for AM processes to provide functional replacements part in space, where spare parts logistics are very challenging. Unlike the ISS proof-of-concept device, mission critical AM parts require a high level of QA to assure functionality, where in process inspection can be extremely beneficial. For terrestrial applications laser powder bed forming (L-PBF) offers compelling advantages such as parts integration, facilitating design complexity and drastically shortening supply chains and lead times. For example, an Inconel 635 LH2 Injector made for NASA was produced in two pieces, replacing more than 150 separate parts that were previously assembled, and was fabricated in 10 days compared with months for the conventional injector. NASA parts often are made in low volume, are very complex and made from high temperature alloys metals. L-PBF fits these needs very well, enabling parts that otherwise could not be made, at lower cost and much faster delivery.
The market for Aerospace Metal AM including Equipment and associated software, services and materials is forecast at $805 million in 2019 growing to $1.2 billion by 2023. The Equipment sector is the largest segment of the market. About 800 metal AM printers were sold in 2015, growing at a CAGR of 37%. Virtually every aerospace organization is a potential user of metal AM and LTM in process inspection. Flightware's direct customers/partners for LTM technology are Equipment OEM's, where LTM is integrated with metal L-PBF printers. OEM's like EOS, 3D Systems, Concept Laser, ExOne, Trumpf, Matsuura, Renishaw, Realizer, Sciaky, Sisma Group, SLM Solutions, ARCAM are expected to be very interested in offering their customers LTM capability if it can be shown to reliable, effective and affordable.