Air New Zealand is using 3D printers to build parts of its long-haul planes.

The airline hopes to soon start rolling out 3D printed components for its Business Premier cabins.

It has been working with Auckland University of Technology to manufacture the fold down cocktail trays that form part of the seat using 3D printing - also known as additive layer manufacturing technology.

Air New Zealand chief operations officer Bruce Parton said the move into 3D printing was one of many innovative moves the airline currently has underway.


"Aircraft interiors are made up of tens of thousands of parts. Not only can't we hold stock of every replacement part we might need, we often only require a small number of units which can be really expensive to produce using traditional manufacturing methods and can involve frustrating delays while a replacement part is delivered,"he said.

"A big advantage of 3D printing is that it allows us to make cost-effective lightweight parts ourselves, and to do so quickly without compromising on safety, strength or durability."

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Air New Zealand hopes to start installing the 3D printed cocktail trays on aircraft in the coming weeks, pending final regulatory approval.

It was possible to other 3D printed components could be introduced.

"It seems the possibilities are limited only by our imagination."

The technology is becoming widespread in the aeronautical industry.

Auckland company Rocket Lab uses 3D printed components in its Rutherford engine and General Electric last year got FAA clearance to use 3D printed sensors in engines that power Boeing 777 planes.

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Air New Zealand is working with the Auckland University of Technology to start using new 3D printing to make new fold down cocktail trays. Watch Lee Donald – Air New Zealand Engineering and Maintenance. Professor Thomas Neitzert – AUT and Andrew Hewitt – Air New Zealand Head of Engineering Contracts and Leasing talking about the move.