Published: Tue, April 18, 2017
Business | By Max Garcia

Boeing Taps Norsk Titanium to Provide 3D-Printed Components

Boeing Taps Norsk Titanium to Provide 3D-Printed Components

Despite that analysis, it seems that there is one company striving to meet the modern idea. It marks the first time that FAA-approved, 3D-printed titanium parts will be used as structural components on a commercial aircraft, according to the company. Founded in 2011 by Jim Downey and Tom McFarland, the EnCore Group is a collection of four aerospace companies that serve the commercial and defense sectors with a range of products including seats, interiors, galleys, monuments, and composite aircraft structures. They're known for the production of airplanes, rockets, and satellites on a worldwide scale.

Norway-based Norsk Titanium has secured a production purchase order from Boeing to provide 3D-printed structural titanium components.

With only a handful of parts to start, the partnership between Boeing and Norsk is only at its very beginning but you can bet that this duo and other parings like it, will become increasingly common in aviation from here on out. Norsk has developed its own technology for creating titanium parts, using a technique named Rapid Plasma Deposition or RPD, in which titanium wire is melted in a cloud of argon gas to create each part. The Norsk Titanium team will continue to expand the portfolio of components supplied to Boeing meeting stringent certification requirements.

Now, these are not secondary pieces. 3D printed parts will significantly replace the expensive traditional materials. This, says Norsk Titanium vice president of marketing Chip Yates, will "open up the floodgates" for massive production and millions in savings.

Boeing expects that by 2018, the use of 3D printing will help them shave $2-3 million off the cost of each 787 Dreamliner. Seeing as the Dreamliner only started generating a profit for Boeing previous year and already cost the company around $29 billion in "production-related losses", this is surely welcome news.

Last year, Boeing said it was testing an industrial 3D printer from Stratasys that can build objects of virtually any size using materials such as carbon fiber for lighter weight and stronger parts. The two companies undertook a lengthy program of testing to ensure that printed parts, as well as the manufacturing process, will be approved by the USA regulatory commission, the FAA, later this year.

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