3D Printed Titanium on Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner: Cutting Costs and Breaking Barriers

Boeing is taking a modern approach to help reduce costs of their 787 Dreamliner. The aerospace manufacturer hired Norsk Titanium AS to print structural titanium parts for the aircraft and both the Norwegian 3D printing company and Boeing are excited about the partnerships potential. Norsk estimates that they could help Boeing cut $2 million to $3 million off the price of each aircraft.

The announcement came on Monday (4/10/17) and it could take Boeing to the next level in regard to aircraft manufacturing. It even has the potential to help them gain a competitive edge over rival, Airbus Group SE. With demand steadily falling for large aircraft around the globe, Boeing and other aircraft manufacturers will need to keep their costs to an absolute minimum. Knocking around $2 million of the cost of a $265 million dreamliner is a fantastic start.

Material costs for a single Dreamliner can reach as high as $17 million. Lightweight titanium alloy is seven times more expensive than aluminum and the Dreamliner uses more of the costly material than most other Boeing airliners. This is due to its carbon-fiber fuselage and wings. With the company manufacturing 144 Dreamliners in a typical year, it calls for a lot of titanium alloy.

Norsk reported that the U.S. regulatory agency is expected to approve its 3D printed titanium and production process for the printed parts later this year. This could lead to the company printing tons of titanium alloy for the aircraft manufacturer, saving the company millions.

Manufacturers have more options when it comes to producing components. 3D printing is moving forward rapidly and the applications continue to expand. Additive manufacturing’s unique ability to make components one layer at a time opens new doors for the modern manufacturer and Boeing is ready to take full advantage. However, Boeing isn’t the only manufacturer looking toward 3D printing to save their business time and money. General Electric Co is printing metal fuel nozzles for aircraft engines

What makes Boeing’s venture into the realm of 3D printing so unique is the fact that it will be the first time 3D printed components are designed to bear the stress of an airframe in flight. This is an incredible achievement by both Norsk and Boeing for pioneering the practice. It’ll be exciting to see the true cost savings for the Dreamliner and how this will impact their production process. As Boeing continues working with Norsk and once the materials and process are approved, only time will tell how much 3D printing will be utilized throughout the aerospace manufacturing process in the future.

Be sure to check back on Manufacturing Talk Radio again soon for the latest trends, developments and news surrounding the manufacturing industry.