Hexcel makes Boeing’s Qualified Provider List for 3D printed aircraft components

Advanced composite materials company Hexcel Corporation has received 3D printed part approval from multinational aeronautical corporation Boeing. Now recognized on Boeing’s Qualified Provider List (QPL), Hexcel is cleared to produce aerospace structures from its high performance thermoplastic HexPEKK. HexPEKK parts provide strong mechanical performance and significant weight reduction. Aviation applications of HexPEKK include optimized brackets, environmental control system ducts, and castings.

High performance thermoplastic HexPEKK

HexPEKK is a high performance thermoplastic designed for delivering fully functional end-use parts and components. Processed with selective laser sintering (SLS) technology, HexPEKK hardware exhibits robust mechanical performance with repeatable material characteristics. 

This polymer has excellent properties such as extreme temperature tolerance and chemical resistance, essential for durability. HexPEKK parts also fulfil interior aircraft smoke and toxicity requirements (UL VO, OHS).

In aviation, space and defence, functional complexity and weight have a substantial impact on performance of end-market applications. HexPEKK presents an alternative engineering grade material 50% lighter than aluminium. It is suited for making both high series labour-intensive and  low series labor and capital intensive production parts. 

Examples of HexPEKK™ parts made using the HexAM™ process. Image via Hexcel.

Meeting the standards for aviation

In 2017, Hexcel acquired Oxford Performance Materials’ (OPM) Aerospace and Defense (A&D) business. OPM specializes in the production of high-performance thermoplastic and carbon fiber reinforced 3D printed parts. Before the acquisition, OPM was working with Boeing to provide 3D printed parts for the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. Numerous certifications including AS9100C, a standard for aerospace and industrial applications had been attained by OPM. 

Utilizing OPM’s expertise, Hexcel now provides high-rate serial part production for aerospace. Compared to traditionally machined aluminum or composite structures, Hexcel’s additive manufacturing processes significantly reduce the lead-time and costs of parts.

After rigorous review of Hexcel’s HexPEKK and material formulation, Boeing has approved HexPEKK 3D printed end-use components.These HexPEKK parts will be manufactured for commercial aerospace applications such as optimized brackets, environmental control system ducts, and castings.

Boeing’s Crew Space Transportation (CST) system in construction. Photo via Boeing.
Boeing’s Crew Space Transportation (CST) system in construction. Photo via Boeing.

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Featured image shows 3D printed part using HexPEKK and SLS. Image via Hexcel.