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Boeing partners Oerlikon to speed up adoption of 3D printing

Boeing is co-operating with Swiss engineering group Oerlikon to jointly develop additive manufacturing processes in a bid to accelerate the technology's wider employment.

Oerlikon says it signed a five-year collaboration agreement with the US airframer to create "standard materials and processes" for the production of "structural" titanium components through 3D printing.

"The research will initially focus on industrialising titanium powder bed fusion additive manufacturing and ensuring parts made with this process meet the flight requirements of the US Federal Aviation Administration and Department of Defense," says Oerlikon.

Noting "current challenges to qualify materials and processes for aerospace", the Pfäffikon-based group says that partnership will "provide a route for the adoption of additive manufacturing with a qualified supply chain that achieves quality and cost targets".

Suppliers will be using a "variety of machines and materials" to produce 3D-printed metallic components.

Oerlikon chief executive Roland Fischer states that the partnership will drive "faster adoption of additive manufacturing". He says: "Working together with Boeing will define the path in producing airworthy additive manufacturing components for serial manufacturing. We see collaboration as a key enabler to unlocking the value that additive manufacturing can bring to aircraft platforms."

Meanwhile, Boeing chief technologist Leo Christodoulou believes the partnership represents an "important step toward fully unlocking the value of powder bed titanium additive manufacturing" for aerospace.

Boeing notes it has conducted research into additive manufacturing since 1997 and has installed a range of components across its product line. Last year, the airframer says it became "the first aerospace manufacturer to design and install an FAA-qualified 3D-printed structural titanium part on a commercial airplane [a 787]".

Also in 2017, Boeing established a dedicated additive manufacturing organisation.

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