Air New Zealand, ST Engineering Aerospace, Moog and Microsoft have successfully used 3D printing and blockchain technology to deliver a cabin part onto one of its Boeing 777-300ERs in Los Angeles.
The Star Alliance carrier says that the proof of concept allowed the bumper part, which sits behind a screen on its business class suite, to be delivered within hours and fitted ahead of the aircraft’s scheduled departure.
Air NZ ordered the digital aircraft part file from ST Engineering, which sent it to an approved printer operated by Moog in Los Angeles. The transaction was logged in Moog’s blockchain enabled VeriPart digital supply chain system, which is hosted using Microsoft cloud technology.
VeriPart allows the original part manufacturer to release their intellectual property in a controlled way that only allows an airline client to print the number of required parts on demand. It also allows for part authentication and tracing.
“Being able to 3D print certain components on the go would be transformative and drive significant efficiencies and sustainability benefits,” says the airline’s chief ground operations officer Carrie Hurihanganui.
“Rather than having the cost associated with purchasing, shipping and storing physical parts and potentially having to fly an aircraft with an unavailable seat, this system would allow us to print a part when and where we need it in hours.”
Air NZ teamed up with Auckland University of Technology in 2016 to start printing components for its business class suites. In 2018 it also signed a deal with Auckland company Zenith Technica to explore using 3D printing to fabricate metal aircraft parts and tools.