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3D Printing Titanium Parts Costs Less: Who's Trying This?


Titanium, as a material, is quite expensive. This tough material offers a range of advantages in aerospace manufacturing, including light weight, strength and versatility, but is also more expensive than aluminum. Since the company is trying to reduce the cost of 787 Dreamliner, 3D printing titanium parts may be part of it. Norway 3D printing company Norsk Titanium AS meets Boeing's demand for 3D printing parts. By a recent printing process approved by FAA, parts manufacturing collaboration can reduce the cost of dream aircraft, saving up to $3 million per aircraft. 1000 of the components of a Boeing 787 that can be made using the RPD process are estimated. "We think each part can save $2500, $2 million 500 thousand per aircraft. If you produce 144 planes a year, that's $360 million. This savings is a revolution." Norsk also takes note of the environmental impact of the RPD process. By reducing the number of titanium scrap (expected 40 pounds 1 pounds of waste generated, the process of God) can reduce the amount of titanium ore mining and metallurgy.

Norsk titanium research and development of its rapid plasma deposition (RPD) process more than 10 years, it can use less than the same components, 50%~75% production costs titanium components. The process involves delivering a room temperature titanium 6-4 cable to a plasma arc produced in a argon atmosphere by a pair of torches. The temperature of the titanium is raised several thousand degrees after the robotic arm is used as a liquid for 3D printing. Titanium is quickly solidified after deposition. Components are built in layers of a closed loop process, requiring little machining. In April, Norsk announced that it would produce 3D titanium components for the Boeing 787 through the RPD. Boeing designed the components and worked closely with the Norsk during the development process. To validate these initial structural components, Boeing and Norsk implemented a rigid test program in February using FAA certified deliverables. Norsk is the first supplier of Boeing high deposition rate material specifications. For the carbon fiber fuselage and wing on the 787 Dreamliner, the use of titanium is critical. It's also Boeing's main rival, Airbus and its A350 jet, in which titanium is widely used. By Norsk Titanium rapid plasma deposition (RPD) process, the cost of titanium parts can be reduced. In this process, the titanium filaments are fed to a set of plasma torches, protected by argon gas. In a more efficient and low-cost way, RPD allows to build components that are as powerful as traditional forgeries. Boeing works closely with Norsk Titanium to design and develop components, partly because it ensures compliance with FAA requirements. "The traditional method is to produce 20 pounds of parts with 200 pounds of forgings. We can make 20 pound parts with 30 pounds of material." It takes 55-75 weeks to produce 200 pounds of billets and process 20 pounds of components. The same components can only be built for 2-3 hours by RPD and finishing. Because of the great reduction in waste and processing energy in the process, Norsk claims to save 75% of its cost and time.

The FAA approval component production process is critical to cost reduction because it eliminates the need for individual agency approval on each component, a process that is millions of square meters per square meter. Boeing and Norsk Titanium have said their titanium print parts are the first printed structural elements that were designed to handle airframe requirements in flight. Boeing has been used for 3D printing parts for aerospace applications in the manufacture of jet engine and space taxi, and also made by the Ge Corp, because the group of manufacturers are metal 3D printing aircraft engine fuel nozzle. So far, the technology has shown increasing potential in the aerospace industry and other types of manufacturing.

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