Boeing has hired Norsk Titanium to 3D print titanium parts for the 787 Dreamliner jet airliner. These are the first structural, load-bearing parts approved by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA). 3D printed metal parts have become more widely accepted in recent years due to its durability and reliability.
This plane uses a lot of titanium, which costs more than other metals, so switching to 3D printed titanium could save the company millions of dollars and help boost profit. Planes often take a few years to become profitable after companies spend money in research and development. Titanium makes up $17 million of a $265 million Dreamliner, primarily due to the jet’s carbon-fiber fuselage and wings. Norsk Titanium says that the 3D printing is expected to save Boeing $2 – 3 million per plane.
The 787 Dreamliner has been in use since 2011, and Boeing has been building around 140 each year. It is the most fuel-efficient of the Boeing planes, and was meant to replace the 767 airliners. According to The Verge, Boeing had $29 billion in losses before the jets became profitable in 2016.
Additive manufacturing avoids waste that traditional manufacturing produces in building titanium parts. In a process called Rapid Plasma Deposition, or RPD, the parts are essentially created out of titanium ribbon. This process melts titanium in argon gas and can build 80% of a part. Afterwards, the part is smoothed out. This uses less machine energy and has less waste than traditional means. Norsk will operate out of Norway for the time being and eventually move to a facility in New York.
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