3D printers could transform the manufacturing of airplane parts, making airplanes lighter so they use less fuel. The above picture shows two hinges for a jet engine cover. The one in the background was created using conventional techniques and the one in the foreground was printed. The printed hinge’s complex design couldn’t be manufactured using conventional methods, and it weighs half as much as the other hinge. The 3D printer can make intricate forms out of high-grade metal, allowing it to print mechanical parts. According to MIT Tecnology Review:
The printers use software that works out where the parts need to bear loads and places material just in those areas, halving the weight of the complete part without sacrificing strength. That saves energy, metal, and money. The complex, curving forms that result couldn’t be cast in a mold or carved out of a larger block even with the most advanced computer-controlled tools, but they can be printed in a succession of layers tens of micrometers thick.