Air New Zealand looking into 3D printing aircraft parts

Air New Zealand says it has teamed up with North Shore-based Zenith Tecnica to look into the possibility of 3D printed metal parts for aircraft.

The airline's chief operations officer, Bruce Parton, says it's another example of the company's commitment to innovation.

"While we are in the initial stages of working with these companies on 3D printing, so far, we have printed prototype metal framing for our Business Premier cabin, to quickly test new concepts and ideas and we have also made novelty wine aerators."

The idea of an airplane coming out of a printer isn't new.
The idea of an airplane coming out of a printer isn't new. Photo credit: Getty Images

The wine aerators are made to look like miniature replica aircraft engines, but the airline wants to use 3D printing for much larger things.

"Aircraft interiors are made up of tens of thousands of parts, and the ability to 3D print - on demand - lightweight parts we only require a small number of, rather than rely on traditional manufacturing methods, is of huge benefit to our business, without compromising safety, strength or durability," Mr Parton said.

Air NZ has been using 3D printing since 2016, when it began using the technology to create replacement parts for in-flight entertainment systems.