Airbus announced a patent application for a large-scale additive manufacturing process that could make it possible to 3D print complete airplanes, from the fuselage to the wings and the doors using technologies similar to selective laser sintering.
The procedure involves melting together different materials (powdered titanium and aluminum, for example) on a substrate to form a single part.
It is when the part cools down that this innovation gets interesting. Differential cooling of the layers causes the part to bend or curve in a particular way. These introduced internal stresses result in parts that are stronger than those manufactured in the traditional way. They are able to withstand demanding operating conditions without loss of aerodynamic characteristics. Parts might even become more stable when bearing increased weight by transferring part of the stress to adjacent elements.