The aerospace and defense industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by the pressing need for modernization, and the growing importance of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), unmanned systems, 3D printing, and composite materials technology. In the last three years alone, there have been over 237,000 patents filed and granted in the aerospace and defense industry, according to GlobalData’s report on 3D printing in defense: aerospace 3D printing. Buy the report here.

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Data Insights 3D printing in defence: Aerospace 3D Printing

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According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which uses over 206,000 patents to analyze innovation intensity for the aerospace and defense industry, there are 110 innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Aerospace 3D printing is a key innovation area in 3D printing

Aerospace 3D Printing involves the use of additive manufacturing techniques to design, prototype, and manufacture aerospace components and parts. It enables the production of high-quality and complex designs, reduces cost, improves efficiency, and enhances durability of the parts used in the aerospace industry.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 50+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established aerospace and defense companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of aerospace 3D printing.

Key players in aerospace 3D printing – a disruptive innovation in the aerospace and defense industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of applications identified for each patent. It broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.   

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of countries each patent is registered in. It reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.  

Patent volumes related to aerospace 3D printing

Company Total patents (2021 - 2023) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
COSCO Shipping 7 Unlock Company Profile
Rolls-Royce 110 Unlock Company Profile
AECOM 48 Unlock Company Profile
Thales 4 Unlock Company Profile
KKR 160 Unlock Company Profile
MBDA France 20 Unlock Company Profile
Lockheed Martin 1 Unlock Company Profile
National Aeronautics and Space Administration 2 Unlock Company Profile
Melrose Industries 9 Unlock Company Profile
IHI 14 Unlock Company Profile
Baker Hughes 2 Unlock Company Profile
Atlas Copco 5 Unlock Company Profile
Electro Optic Systems 8 Unlock Company Profile
Siemens 102 Unlock Company Profile
Kobe Steel 8 Unlock Company Profile
Georg Fischer 2 Unlock Company Profile
Sulzer 25 Unlock Company Profile
CEA 4 Unlock Company Profile
Snecma 23 Unlock Company Profile
Alstom 16 Unlock Company Profile
Northrop Grumman 3 Unlock Company Profile
General Electric 300 Unlock Company Profile
U.S. Department of Defence 2 Unlock Company Profile
Siemens Energy 47 Unlock Company Profile
BAE Systems 55 Unlock Company Profile
Eramet 6 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsubishi 6 Unlock Company Profile
Raytheon Technologies 404 Unlock Company Profile
RTX 404 Unlock Company Profile
Groupe Industriel Marcel Dassault 1 Unlock Company Profile
Textron 7 Unlock Company Profile
EOS 12 Unlock Company Profile
Safran 150 Unlock Company Profile
Boeing 115 Unlock Company Profile
US Department of Energy 2 Unlock Company Profile
Airbus 40 Unlock Company Profile
DMG Mori Seiki 2 Unlock Company Profile
Xylem 1 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries 29 Unlock Company Profile
GKN 6 Unlock Company Profile
CDP Equity 6 Unlock Company Profile
SLM Solutions Group 9 Unlock Company Profile
Rocket Lab USA 2 Unlock Company Profile
Bosch Mahle Turbo Systems 4 Unlock Company Profile
Ansaldo Energia 12 Unlock Company Profile
DMG Mori 5 Unlock Company Profile
Raytheon 6 Unlock Company Profile
The Corporation For Penn State 4 Unlock Company Profile
Redwire 10 Unlock Company Profile
The French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission 4 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Airbus is one of the leading patent filers in aerospace 3D printing. It filed patents related to the method and system of adapting a 3D printing model for use in additive layer manufacturing (ALM), selective laser sintering (SLS) and/or solid freeform fabrication (SFF) processes, and advanced 3D printing methods and apparatus for producing various aircraft components, including metal components and structural fiber-reinforced composite components for the fuselage of an aircraft or spacecraft.  

The company is using 3D-printed lighter parts to retrofit aircraft and produce prototype airplanes and components, to reduce emissions, improve fuel and resource efficiency, and leverage the quick and highly flexible manufacturing capability.

Airbus Helicopters, the helicopter manufacturing division of Airbus, opened a new 3D printing center at its main helicopter production site in Donauworth, Germany, in October 2023. The company operates three types of 3D printing machines to produce composite components made of titanium, plastic, and aluminum.  

Some other key patent filers in this space include Raytheon Technologies, Safran, and Boeing.

In terms of application diversity, Textron, Dassault Group, and MBDA France are some of the leading innovators. By means of geographic reach, some of the leading patent filers include MBDA France, Redwire, and Airbus.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the aerospace and defense industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on 3D Printing in Aerospace and Defense.

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GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.