The first structural titanium parts for its 787 Dreamliner would be built by Norsk Titanium AS who have been hired by Boeing.
In a shift in its strat55egy and with the intention to save money, the Norwegian 3-D printing company said would eventually shave $2 million to $3 million off the cost of each plane.
Since the new measure will allow Boeing to replace pieces made with more expensive traditional manufacturing in demanding aerospace applications, this new contract is a sign of growing industrial acceptance of the durability of 3-D printed metal parts and is a major step in Boeing’s effort to boost the profitability of the 787.
Industry sources say that the lightweight titanium alloy accounts for about $17 million of the cost of a $265 million Dreamliner because this strong and lightweight alloy is seven times more costly than aluminum – the major component of traditional aircraft bodies.
Because of its carbon-fiber fuselage and wings, more of titanium is required in the 787 compared to other m models and hence Boeing has been trying to reduce costs of the metal on the 787.
“This means $2 million to $3 million in savings for each Dreamliner, at least,” starting in 2018 when many more parts are being printed, Chip Yates, Norsk Titanium’s vice president of marketing, said in an nterview.
144 Dreamliners are typically built by Boeing every year. The company said that Norsk’s technology would help reduce costs but it has declined to comment on the estimate.
After racking up nearly $29 billion in production-related losses, the Dreamliner turned profitable last year.
Yates said that to design four 787 parts and obtain Federal Aviation Administration certification for them, Norsk has worked with Boeing for more than a year.
This year the material properties and production process for printed parts is expected to be approved by the U.S. regulatory agency, said Norsk.
That will “open up the floodgates,” Yates said.
There is expected to be savings of millions per plane because each part of the airplane would not require separate FAA approval and hence Norsk would be allowed to print thousands of other parts for each Dreamliner.
“You’re talking about tons, literally,” on the 787 that would be printed instead of made with traditional, expensive forging and machining, he said.
Already having started printing metal fuel nozzles for aircraft engines is General Electric Co. But the first printed structural components designed to bear the stress of an airframe in flight are the titanium parts, both Norsk and Boeing said.
Norsk said it aims to have nine printers running by year-end at a 67,000-square-foot (6,220-square-meter) facility in Plattsburgh, New York even though it will print initially in Norway.
(Adapted from Reuters)