3D Printed Airliner Parts Face Regulatory Headwinds

Some aerospace suppliers are eager to start using 3-D printing technology to turn out large, high-volume structural parts for jetliners, but U.S. safety regulators are taking a go-slow approach toward approving such production. From a report: Three-dimensional printing is a darling of the aerospace industry because it is relatively inexpensive compared with more-prevalent ways of making components. A series of announcements at the Paris Air Show expected in coming days illustrates the immense promise of airliner parts manufactured by 3-D printers — as well as the formidable regulatory challenges confronting their widespread acceptance (alternative source). On Tuesday, officials of Norsk Titanium AS, a closely held Norwegian company that has developed a novel 3-D printing approach, will unveil a broad partnership with Spirit AeroSystems, a major subcontractor for Boeing and other industry players. Under the arrangement, Spirit sees the potential of eventually using Norsk’s technology to produce thousands of different parts at 30% lower cost than traditional milling methods. However, before that can happen, the Federal Aviation Administration has to approve the overall process and certify that the cutting-edge, plasma-deposition technology is reliable enough to ensure identical strength and other properties from batch to batch. FAA officials have said they are moving cautiously, because they want to fully understand the unique technical issues.


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