back to article Airbus developing inkjet printer for planes

Plane-maker Airbus is working on an inkjet printer. Currently undergoing testing, the device is intended to paint planes. Today, airlines' logos and the designs they favour are usually painted onto planes. If the designs are complex, they are built up layer by layer in a time-consuming process. Designs too complex to be …

  1. Chris Miller

    Forget 'Hello Kitty'

    What about this one? (Regularly to be seen over London en route between Heathrow and Los Angeles.)

    1. Dale 3

      Re: Forget 'Hello Kitty'

      This one is my favourite, airline Kulula in South Africa. I've travelled on it once. Another pic here.

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: Forget 'Hello Kitty'

        Does it say "This side up" and "Insert coin to operate" ?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Forget 'Hello Kitty'

          They work for an air company, not Apple.

  2. Francis Boyle Silver badge

    Silly idea

    They should just 3d print the planes in colour!

    1. Rustident Spaceniak

      Re: Silly idea

      They've already begun 3D printing little parts. It's safe to expect those'll grow in size and number with each coming model. Nonetheless, at that size (both of company and product) they won't charge headlong into a technology just for the newness of it.

      On the other hand, Ryanair might start selling you 3D printed food (probably with someone else's paid advertisement on it) soon enough.

      1. staggers

        Re: Silly idea

        When that finally happens we'll all come back here and haunt you for mentioning it first!

    2. brooxta

      Re: Silly idea

      When it gets to the stage where "ink jets" are in fact "atom jets" then you might have a process that could produce viable aircraft. Until then 3d printing for most aerospace applications, without significant treatment regimes afterwards, is just plain not going to work.

      Those treatment regimes (annealing etc) would lose you most of the convenience of printing anyway. It's been a little while since I did any serious metallurgy but I hate to imagine the physical properties of aluminium that has been ink jet deposited. Consider the fact that planes use rivets rather than welds to hold them together because welding weakens the aluminium alloy too much and you get a sense of the problem.

      The degree to which the alloys in aircraft depend on strict atomic-crystalline arrangements on a large scale for their structural integrity is very impressive especially when you realise you bet your life on the fact that it is so and will remain so for the duration of your flight let alone the lifetime of the component.

      1. Rustident Spaceniak

        Re: Silly idea

        Your metallurgy must be longer ago than you realize. Airbus has introduced laser welding on aluminium sheets long ago for the A380. With the right alloy and right welding parameters, you get a better strength-to-weight ratio than with rivets, which are a pain from a production engineering point of view. The latest fab is of course friction stir welding, which is starting to show up in aerospace products.

        Nonetheless, no aircraft I am aware of is made 100% of the same material, there are always a number of different production methods used. And I for one would hate to operate an aircraft that, like the ship from Momo, was all in one piece. Imagine the cost of replacing a danged bit!

        1. A Known Coward

          "the ship from Momo"

          I'm unfamiliar with that reference, but I'm curious?

          1. Rustident Spaceniak

            Re: "the ship from Momo"

            It's a 1973 children's novel by Michael Ende about a girl of the same name, who ends up defeating time thieves (the so-called grey men). In one of the early scenes, Momo and her friends play out an adventure in an imaginary ship in an imaginary thunderstorm. And the ship is cast in a single piece. OK, it's outdated, but still quite well known where I live.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: "the ship from Momo"

              sadly this book has never become well know other than where-you-live (no sarcasm, it's a good book).

        2. brooxta

          Re: Silly idea

          Your metallurgy must be longer ago than you realize

          Fair cop guv.

          Airbus has introduced laser welding on aluminium sheets long ago for the A380. With the right alloy and right welding parameters, you get a better strength-to-weight ratio than with rivets, which are a pain from a production engineering point of view.

          Rivetting is a pita, not just for production, it can be a source of corrosion leading to fractures during the working life of the aircraft too.

          And I take your point about laser welding on Airbus products, although that's quite a lot of qualifications for what turns out to be a relatively small part of the A380's fuselage. That being said I too expect the proportion will only increase.

          However, imagine having to laser weld every dot of the structure in 3d as you print it. And when it comes to the jet engine turbine blades... after you sir!

      2. Andrew Newstead

        Re: Silly idea

        SpaceX have recently been testing a small rocket engine whose thrust (combustion) chamber has been 3d printed. The comments were that they had been able to make a hugely efficient engine because the component's shape was able to adopt a more sophisticated and complex shape that would be difficult to fabricate using typical "metal bashing" techniques. On test the engine has performed very well indeed.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    F'ing Hell.....

    How much are the cartridges going to cost for that!

    Going by HP prices it would be cheaper to coat them in gold then hand engrave the picutre

    1. wikkity

      Re: F'ing Hell.....

      > Going by HP prices it would be cheaper to coat them in gold then hand engrave the picutre

      They'll just buy OEM or refilled carts.

    2. Adam 1

      Re: F'ing Hell.....

      It'd be cheaper to just fly on the unicorns themselves than the number you would need to make that quantity of printer ink.

  4. dotdavid

    "Airbus says the still-experimental printer “... functions much like a traditional model"

    So it will be used irregularly and the ink will dry up and clog the nozzles resulting in streaks down the side of your plane. It will also inexplicably chew up the odd plane in its plane feeder tray. They won't provide a Linux driver for anything except Ubuntu 10.04 and the Windows driver will be 745MB for some reason.

    Sounds great.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      the Windows driver will be 745MB for some reason.

      That'll be the Google toolbar.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      the Windows driver will be 745MB for some reason

      They contracted the driver out to HP.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      And Epson, noticing the potential market revenue loss, will create a bulk ink "jet-printer" (lame pun) that will be able to paint over 4000 planes before running out of ink, which will just cost cents per hundred gallons, making HP look silly in the process. Again.

  5. ratfox

    You ATE it?

    You… you monster!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No reference to this?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    God help them if they forget to cancel double sided printing..

    1. billse10

      oh Brother

      or if it gets halfway through the job & the driver decides to "phone home" to tell the printer company what you've been printing ...

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    EVA airways has just become

    Another airline I will never fly with.

  9. Tromos

    If they don't use it...

    ...for a couple of days, they'll have to put half a dozen planes through to get the nozzles unclogged.

    1. maffski

      Re: If they don't use it...

      They recommend you keep a supply of Cessna's available for test prints.

  10. Unicornpiss Silver badge

    Be sure to deselect the staple option

    I hate inkjets. I'll hold out for the laser version. True, the toner carts will cost a couple $M each, but you will be able to print more than one plane before it starts streaking or telling you it's running low on cyan. Or refusing to print any B/W text because of same. Of course lights might dim in neighbouring cities when the fuser starts to warm up...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Be sure to deselect the staple option

      I'd like to see the size of the replacement stapler clips...

      And I hate, hate, hate HP when they decided to prevent B/W printing when out of color ink. We cheated the reverse once, by formatting the whole text to use brown.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not sure I'd want to fly on a "hello kitty" themed plane.

    Maybe "Ed Force One".

  12. Jan 0 Silver badge

    Hello Kitty

    I've been a fan ever since two exceedingly cute bank tellers served me in Hello Kitty outfits 20 years ago. However, I don't understand why it's on a Taiwanese airliner, rather that a Japanese one. Is Hello Kitty out of copyright?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Ryanair are a Boeing outfit.

    1. ssharwood

      Re: Ryanair

      I know. But the gag was too good to miss IMHO

  14. Michael Habel Silver badge


    I thought that they were vinyled on...

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Painted?

      The more complex ones are "stickers" according the article, so yes, a vinyl to be more accurate than the articles author, who did mention in passing that they are not all painted on, you know, with words and stuff.

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