Design Engineering

Boeing orders industry’s first 3D printed structural parts for Dreamliner

By Design Engineering staff   

Additive Manufacturing Aerospace

Norwegian additive manufacturing firm says its AM titanium parts could save jet maker millions on each plane.

A Norsk Titanium Merke IV 3D metal printer producing parts for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. (Photo credit: Norsk Titanium)

Norsk Titanium announced this week that it has received an order from Boeing to produce structural components, 3D printed in titanium, for the 787 Dreamliner. According to the Norway-based additive manufacturing firm, Boeing’s purchase order represents the first time AM parts will be used to bear structural stresses in a commercial aircraft. The company says it partnered with Boeing to design the parts and submit them to an extensive testing program to gain FAA certification.

According to Reuters, Boeing’s contract is a cost cutting strategy aimed at reducing the production expense of the Dreamliner, which uses titanium extensively due to the 787’s carbon-fiber fuselage and wings. Using their proprietary Rapid Plasma Deposition (RPD) process, Norsk’s Vice President of Marketing, Chip Yates, told Reuters that he estimates Boeing could shave between $2-3 million off the cost of the 144 Dreamliners Boeing typically produces each year.

Those savings, the company says, are due its RPD process creating parts that are 80 percent production ready out of the printer and therefore require relatively little post-processing. That saving would also be contingent on the FAA approving the material properties and production process for printed parts later this year, thereby allowing Norsk to expand from four initial 787 parts to thousands without needing to certify each part separately.

Production of the 3D printed titanium components will begin in Norway, the company says, but it plans to move the program to its 67,000-square-foot facility in Plattsburgh, New York by year’s end.



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