Before you wonder, no, you can’t just get your own 3D printer and print out your very own jet. While you wait for that day, you can read this article about the industrial applications for 3D printing, which have been on the rise in recent times. Boeing has placed an order with Norsk Titanium, a titanium component manufacturer, to make 3D-printed structural titanium parts for its 787 Dreamliner. According to Norsk, this would mean an eventual $2 million to$3 million saving on each Dreamliner manufactured. Here’s the tweet announcing the contract:
— Norsk Titanium (@NorskTitanium) April 10, 2017
As Reuters notes, the titanium used in a Dreamliner accounts for about $17 million in its overall cost of manufacture. Using 3D printed components would avoid material wastage, which would, in turn, lead to the lower expenditure mentioned earlier. Titanium is quite expensive, to begin with, and the design used for the 787 Dreamliner calls for a lot of it to be used. In comparison, aluminium is an alternative material that is not as robust but is also up to seven times cheaper.
This is new.. kinda
This is not the first time 3D printed components are being used for an aeroplane. General Electric Co is already involved in the 3D printing of metal fuel nozzles for aircraft engines. But this is the first time that the Federal Aviation Administration has approved 3D printed parts that will actually be exposed to the elements during a flight.
Bringing down the cost of manufacture will go a long way in the sustainability of an airline, with the losses incurred in initial years being offset by profits gained through innovation. This also indicated a greater acceptability of 3D printing in the industry, even in critical use cases. Further regulations, abroad and in our own country, will make it much easier for such applications to be envisioned and eventually applied for actual results. Your kids might have their own backyard 3D printing workshop, and own their own jets as a result!