Mark Potter of the Additive Layer Manufactyting team at BAE Systems with the WAAM printed 1.2 meter long  titanium spar section

The Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM) method was developed by Cranfield University in the UK and BAE Systems to produce stable, customized metal parts from titanium, and the researchers say it might one day be suitable for use in aircraft as well.

Taking only 37 hours to output a 1.2-meter-long part, the rapid process might signal the next wave of aeronautical AM.

"We now have the ability to manufacture titanium parts on this scale," says Matt Stevens of BAE Systems. "The next stage is to continue working together to produce more parts and to develop a robust set of processes so we can take this technology and apply it safely and seamlessly into the aerospace industry."

In creating a structure known as a "spar section," the part is used as a structural element of an aircraft's wing. Previous processes would have taken weeks to complete.

Called Wire+Arc Additive Manufacture, or WAAM for short, Professor Stewart Williams, the leader of the project at Cranfield, is bullish on the technology.

"This is an exciting technology with huge potential for the aerospace industry," Williams says. "Cranfield is renowned for its close working relationships with industry partners and this is an excellent example."

BAE Systems, Inc. is a U.S. subsidiary of BAE Systems PLC, a global defense, security and aerospace company which delivers products and services for air, land and naval forces. The company also develops and produces advanced electronics, security and information technology solutions.

Headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, BAE Systems, Inc. employs some 43,000 people in the United States, United Kingdom, Sweden, Israel, Mexico, and South Africa. The firm generated sales in excess of $14.4 billion in 2011.