3D-printing parts knocks $3m off Boeing Dreamliner plane costs

11 Apr 2017

Image: jannoon028/Shutterstock

Aerospace giant Boeing is getting with the times, as 3D-printed parts cut millions off the price of a Dreamliner plane.

As IoT adoption continues to surge and VR investments soar, 3D printing is perhaps the area to which we should all be averting our gaze.

IDC estimates that there was more than $13bn worth of 3D-printing-related purchases in 2016, with the market expected to grow to $28.9bn by the end of the decade.

When big industry gets involved, you know that growth is more and more achievable. On that note, Boeing has revealed a new partnership with Norsk Titanium AS, to print the first structural titanium parts for its 787 Dreamliner.

The Norwegian 3D printing tech company claims that the move could knock up to $3m off the price of each plane, with more parts to be printed in 2018.

This is one of the biggest ever votes of confidence for 3D printing, with durability and safety two concerns that have held back a technology continuing to undergo massive innovation.

According to Reuters, strong, lightweight titanium alloy is seven times more costly than aluminium, and accounts for about $17m of the cost of a $265m Dreamliner.

“Boeing has been trying to reduce titanium costs on the 787, which requires more of the metal than other models because of its carbon-fibre fuselage and wings,” said Reuters. Titanium also is used extensively on Airbus Group SE’s rival A350 jet.

“This means $2m-$3m in savings for each Dreamliner, at least,” said Chip Yates, Norsk Titanium’s vice-president of marketing.

Last week, it was revealed that Adidas was dipping its toe in the 3D-printing industry, using the latest technology to create its ‘Futurecraft 4D’ shoe.

Adidas is partnering with Carbon – a Silicon Valley start-up that can 3D print fast enough with good quality – to allow for the mass production of footwear later this year.

The soles of the shoes will be 3D printed, replacing the injection mould process that is largely the norm in the industry.

“This is a milestone – not only for us as a company, but also for the industry,” said Gerd Manz, head of technology innovation at Adidas. “We’ve cracked some of the boundaries.”

Fashion and aerospace: two industries now embracing what appears an inevitable future.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic