Markets Aerospace companies still set to invest in ‘green opportunities’

Editor: Steffen Donath

Despite the effects of Covid-19, aerospace companies still plan to invest in greener technology, as a recent report shows.

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Companies that are experiencing financial pressures in the aftermath of Covid-19 are now focusing on quick wins and speed to market.
Companies that are experiencing financial pressures in the aftermath of Covid-19 are now focusing on quick wins and speed to market.
(Source: Protolabs)

The second part of Protolabs’ Horizon Shift report, which involved aerospace business leaders from across Europe, reveals that more than three quarters of firms (77 %) expect environmental credibility to become a key differentiator moving forward, whilst 72 % indicate that new materials will be the driving force in lowering emissions and making flying cleaner.

65 % believe investment in innovation that reduces emissions should continue despite the pandemic, with 42 % now transforming their supply chains as part of the innovation drive to cut down CO2 output.

The latest survey, which was conducted as a follow-up to an initial report of 325 executives taken in February and March, presents a unique insight into the sector, particularly in regard to what has changed as a result of the pandemic. In addition to environmental improvements, companies are also looking for Government support and stimulus packages to help them create new revenue streams, embed innovation in the supply chain and bring new products to market quickly. 39 % believe that there needs to be more immediate investment in infrastructure, whilst 33 % are calling on more supportive fiscal policy.

“The two crises of climate change and the Covid-19 lockdowns are changing the face of the aerospace industry,” explained Bjoern Klaas, Vice President and Managing Director of Protolabs Europe, the world’s fastest digital manufacturer of custom prototypes and low-volume production parts. New types of aircraft, business models and supply chains will emerge. Survival is not going to be about a fast transition, but about building up resilience for the long-term and, part of that, is producing the next generation of aircraft: improved aerodynamics, lighter, more fuel-efficient and less polluting.”

“91 % of business leaders admit that cutting CO2 is having some form of impact on how they run their companies and, the good news for the European aerospace sector, is that it appears they’ve decided to embrace the pressure by transforming supply chains and developing new technologies and materials.”

Horizon Shift

The Horizon Shift report delves into challenges facing the supply chain and what operational improvements the sector is taking to overcome these. Top of the list of concerns for companies over the next two years was environmental compliance, followed by inflexibility/long supply chain delays (69 %) and length of certification process (60 %). Volatility in raw material costs and availability (57 %) was a key talking point. The research found that firms expect to move from using advanced manufacturing techniques in order to enhance productivity and output, to using them to create a more flexible product range (63 %) and deliver parts/aircraft quicker (58 %). 3D printing’s transformation from a prototyping technology into a full production technology was also discussed in the Protolabs report. Companies talked of processing materials at a greater speed, with less waste, and even compressing multiple components into a single lighter 3D-printed part.