While 3D printing may still be in the midst of having an identity crisis in the world of mass production (although the recent Adidas and Carbon partnership looks promising), there is no shortage of applications for custom parts in the aviation industry.
Although airline manufacturers have been using a variety of additive manufacturing methods for a range of purposes for decades, Boeing is set to begin using FAA-certified additively manufactured titanium parts in their finished aircraft, according to a Reuters report. The savings in production costs are estimated to save the Seattle-based company at least $3 million per manufactured jet – starting with its 787 Dreamliner jet airliner.
Titanium alloy, which is both strong and lightweight, can cost seven times more than aluminum and the material cost of titanium alloy alone accounts for roughly $17 million of the $265 million it costs to produce the Dreamliner. The company depends on titanium alloy on the Dreamliner in particular because of its carbon-fiber fuselage and wings.
The company plans to begin producing the 3D printed parts—which will supply 144 Dreamliners set to be produced next year—on nine Norsk Titanium industrial 3D printers by the end of 2017.