While 3D printing is still making steady inroads in a variety of tech-related industries, from robotics, to medical prosthetics, Boeing is looking to get in on the 3D printing action in a big way.
The US-based aeroplane manufacturing giant is looking to build the world’s first commercial jet liner with 3D printed parts, in collaboration with Norwegian firm Norsk Titanium. If reports are correct, the new material could help the company save up to $3 million on each jest constructed.
Norsk Titanium confirmed on Monday that it’s received a production order from Boeing for 3D printed structural components, to be used for the upcoming Dreamliner 787. The parts, to be printed using titanium “ink” will make up sections of the plane’s load bearing structures.
“From the outset, the 787 has been the hallmark of innovation and efficiency,” said John Byrne, vice president, Airplane Materials and Structures & Supplier Management at Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “We are always looking at the latest technologies to drive cost reduction, performance and value to our customers and Norsk Titanium fits the bill in a new and creative way.”
Norsk will begin printing the parts in Norway, but says it plans to eventually have nine 3D printers running in New York by the end of 2017. The parts are the first ever 3D printed pieces for aeroplanes to be approved by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA). The cost reduction could be a huge boon for Boeing, which only last year managed to reduce the cost of building the Dreamliner 787 to below its sales price, after racking up $29 billion in losses through its initial design, testing, and manufacture period.
Norsk will be using an internally- developed 3D printing technique called Rapid Plasma Deposition (RPD), in which the titanium wire is melted while immersed in argon gas to create each part. This helps cut down on both the cost of raw materials, as well as energy usage involved with traditional manufacturing processes for aeroplanes.
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