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Unparalleled efficiency and high levels of user customization are among the many hallmarks of Dassault Falcon jets… but what if these characteristics could be incorporated at a quicker pace, and at greatly reduced costs? Those are some of the many potential benefits from additive manufacturing, or AM.

More commonly known as “3D printing,” AM represents a paradigm shift for aircraft manufacturing and completion. Rather than milling a component from a larger block of material (usually aluminum) AM creates the part, one thin layer at a time, from a given medium. Parts are formed around surface impressions and voids, saving time, cost and material waste.

In addition to providing clear benefits to the manufacturer, the technology offers tremendous potential for Falcon operators. Use of 3D printed components that are lighter, and much easier to maintain and service, are benefits that customers will feel in their wallets; in fact, you may be surprised to learn that Falcons are already flying with 3D printed parts onboard, although they’re typically out of sight of passengers.

AM also offers a high degree of flexibility to manufacture components to meet specific customer demands. Dassault has produced several prototype 3D printed parts, ranging from utensil racks and cabinet doors, to a retractable clothes hanger assembly – all produced far more quickly and with much less expense than would have been possible using conventional manufacturing techniques.


“We’ve actually used AM for several years now,” noted Bastien Carel, Senior Manufacturing Engineering Manager for Dassault Falcon Jet (DFJ) in Little Rock, AR. “Air duct plenums, diffusers, and air systems have already been produced through AM, and we’re constantly looking at other applications as well, including transitioning certain metallic components over to polymers that could reduce weight and cost.”


Although 3D printing may seem to be a relatively recent technology, the process has been in use throughout various manufacturing sectors for more than a decade, utilizing a variety of materials from simple plastics to exotic metals. Initial AM efforts focused on recreating parts manufactured via conventional methods, but emphasis has now shifted to utilizing specific design criteria for 3D printing applications.

“Conventional wisdom has traditionally been that you ‘design to manufacture’; AM shifts that more towards ‘manufacturing to design,’” Carel noted. “This allows us to basically print directly to tooling, reducing lead time by as much as half.”

As one example, the Dassault completion center recently 3D printed a single sideledge bezel with just a two-day lead time. Those are significant improvements over traditional manufacturing that would have required more than two weeks to have the piece machined from aluminum.

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