Oerlikon and Boeing partner to bring 3D printed standard to aerospace

Swiss listed technology group Oerlikon (SWX:OERL) has signed a five year metal 3D printing collaboration agreement with leading aircraft manufacturer Boeing (NYSE: BA).

Under the terms of the agreement, the two partners will focus on creating standard means of additively manufacturing titanium aircraft parts, that meet flight requirements of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the U.S. Department of Defence.

An FA-18E Super Hornet, part of Boeing's defence contracts. Photo via Boeing.
An FA-18E Super Hornet, part of Boeing’s defence contracts. Photo via Boeing.

Leo Christodoulou, Chief Technologist at Boeing and previous author for our Future of 3D Printing series, comments, “This agreement is an important step toward fully unlocking the value of powder bed titanium additive manufacturing for the aerospace industry,”

“Boeing and Oerlikon will work together to standardize additive manufacturing operations from powder management to finished product and thus enable the development of a wide range of safe, reliable and cost-effective structural titanium aerospace components.”

Metal powder bed fusion

In April 2017, the Boeing Dreamliner 787 became the first commercial airplane to fly with FAA approved structural titanium components. These bar-like components were made by Norsk Titanium, using its proprietary Rapid Plasma Deposition™ technique, that takes a wire-based feedstock.

In a different approach with Oerlikon, Boeing will be focusing on metal additive with a powder-based feedstock.

In June 2017, Oerlikon signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with GE Additive. In this deal, Oerlikon agreed to help GE industrialize metal powder bed fusion (PBF) additive manufacturing techniques delivered by both Concept Laser and Arcam EBM.

Oerlikon entered the additive manufacturing industry. Photo by Michael Petch.
Metal 3D printed parts by Oerlikon. Photo by Michael Petch

3D printing for serial production

In the same year as the Norsk Titanium components, Boeing launched its own Additive Manufacturing organization focused on adding value and increasing speed to market of its products for customers. One of the key factors of this goal is to achieve 3D printing in serial production.

Speaking of the new collaboration Dr. Roland Fischer, CEO of the Oerlikon Group, says, “This program will drive the faster adoption of additive manufacturing in the rapidly growing aerospace, space and defence markets,”

“Working together with Boeing will define the path in producing airworthy additive manufacturing components for serial manufacturing.”

Eventually, the two companies will develop metal additive manufacturing as a standard for Boeing aircrafts.

Dr. Fischer continues, “We see collaboration as a key enabler to unlocking the value that additive manufacturing can bring to aircraft platforms and look forward to partnering with Boeing.”

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Featured image shows Oerlikon’s Surface Solutions Segment used in jet engines. Photo via Oerlikon Group