Autodesk and Airbus show the future of aerospace design and manufacture in pioneering generatively designed 3D printed partition

Categories: People & Culture Generative design Custom Manufacturing

Airbus, the leading aircraft manufacturer, has collaborated with 3D design and engineering software leader Autodesk to create the world’s largest 3D printed airplane cabin component.


Dubbed the “bionic partition,” the component was created with custom algorithms that generated a design that mimics cellular structure and bone growth, and then produced using additive manufacturing techniques. This pioneering design and manufacture process renders the structure stronger and more light-weight than would be possible using traditional processes.



The partition is a dividing wall between the seating area and the galley of a plane and holds the jumpseat for the cabin attendants. As with many aircraft components, the partition has incredible design and structural requirements, including specific cutouts and weight limits, making the generative design approach particularly appropriate.

Innovative Materials and Production Methods Mean Fuel Savings

In air travel, reducing weight means reducing fuel use. Designed in a structurally-strong, but lightweight micro-lattice shape, Airbus’ new bionic partition is 45 per cent (30 kg) lighter than current designs. When applied to the entire cabin and to the current backlog of A320 planes, Airbus estimates that the new design approach can save up to 465,000 metric tons of C02 emissions per year, the equivalent of taking about 96,000 passenger cars off the road for one year.

The new bionic partition uses Scalmalloy®, a second-generation aluminium-magnesium-scandium alloy created by APWorks, an Airbus subsidiary focused on additive manufacturing and advanced materials. Scalmalloy® is specifically designed for use in 3D printing and offers outstanding mechanical properties, meaning that it will stretch more before breaking. This is the first time it has been used on a large scale inside an aircraft component.

Generative Design Made Possible by Harnessing the Power of the Cloud

The ability to harness infinite numbers of central processing units (CPUs) through cloud computing have made possible incredible advances in design and engineering.  Generative design capitalizes on the cloud to compute very large sets of design alternatives – hundreds to thousands – that meet specific goals and constraints. Generative design can explore new solutions that even experienced designers might not have considered, while improving design quality and performance. Because the designs created are nearly impossible to manufacture using traditional methods, additive manufacturing techniques like 3D printing are critical to generative design’s success.

“Generative design, additive manufacturing and the development of new materials are already transforming the shape of manufacturing and innovative companies like Airbus are showing what is possible,” said Jeff Kowalski, chief technology officer of Autodesk. “This is not just an interesting hypothetical experiment – this is a fully functioning component we can expect to see being deployed in aircraft in the very near future. We’re looking forward to further collaboration with Airbus on new components and designs for current and future aircraft.”

Peter Sander, VP emerging technologies and concepts at Airbus expanded: “At Airbus we are always looking to push the boundaries of new technologies and explore how we can best innovate. The collaboration with Autodesk, APWorks and Concept Laser has proved very successful. Autodesk brings generative design technology and a real understanding of additive manufacturing, which is crucial to turning great concepts into real products. These technologies will ultimately revolutionise the way we design and build aircraft, enabling improvements in fuel efficiency, passenger comfort and a drastic reduction in the environmental footprint of air transport overall.”

The first phase of testing of the partition has been successfully completed. Further testing will be conducted next year, including a test flight.

The bionic partition project is a joint collaboration between Autodesk, Airbus, APWorks and The Living, an Autodesk studio which specialises in applying generative design and new technologies across a wide range of fields and applications.

About Autodesk

Autodesk helps people imagine, design and create a better world. Everyone—from design professionals, engineers and architects to digital artists, students and hobbyists—uses Autodesk software to unlock their creativity and solve important challenges. For more information visit or follow @autodesk.

About Airbus
Airbus is a leading aircraft manufacturer with the most modern and comprehensive family of airliners on the market, ranging in capacity from 100 to more than 500 seats. Airbus champions innovative technologies and offers some of the world’s most fuel efficient and quiet aircraft. Airbus has sold more than 16,000 aircraft to more than 380 customers worldwide. Airbus has achieved more than 9,400 deliveries since the first Airbus aircraft entered into service. Airbus is headquartered in Toulouse, France and has design and manufacturing facilities in France, Germany, the UK, and Spain, and subsidiaries in the US, China, India, Japan and in the Middle East.

About APWorks
As a 100% subsidiary of Airbus Group, Airbus APWorks is familiar with modern manufacturing processes. It is a technical consultancy and a production facility for additive manufacturing. In addition to its main focus on additive manufacturing, innovative projects, ideas, technologies, and concepts from Airbus Group Innovations, the corporate research network, are made accessible by Airbus APWorks to customers across all industries.

About The Living
The Living, a first-of-its-kind Autodesk Studio, explores the future by prototyping it today. The Studio applies generative design, biology, and new materials to real built projects in the context of technology, culture, and the environment. In 2015, The Living was ranked third by Fast Company in its list of World’s Most Innovative Companies in Architecture. For more information, see