American aerostructure manufacturer Spirit AeroSystems has confirmed the receipt of its first 3D printed structural component. The first product of an existing partnership between the company and Norwegian-American Rapid Plasma Deposition (RPD) developer Norsk Titanium, the part has been installed in the forward fuselage of a Boeing 787.
As the sole producer of the nose section of every Boeing airplane in commercial production today, Spirit’s support of RPD technology could be a landmark opportunity for the further integration of 3D printing in aerospace.
3D printed structural parts for planes
As of 2019, Spirit’s partnership with Norsk has been ongoing for almost a decade. Together, the companies are working to make RPD additive manufacturing a valuable and fully-integrated part of Spirit’s aerostructure production line, which includes the manufacture of fuselages, pylons, nacelles and wing components.
Then, in July 2018, Norsk confirmed that it had commenced the qualification process for Spirit’s first 3D printed part.
Rapid Plasma Deposition
Norsk’s RPD technology uses a wire-based feed stock which is melted, layer by layer, within an inert, argon gas environment. To ensure the quality and stability of this process, this melt process is monitored more than 600 times per second.
The first confirmed part Norsk has produced for Spirit is as a back-up fitting for an access door latch. Now part of the entire 787 forward fuselage, the part is scheduled for final assembly at Boeing in January 2019.
“Integrating additive manufacturing capability into our production system to build end-use titanium parts expands Spirit’s fabrication capabilities and puts us at the forefront of advanced manufacturing,” commented Kevin Matthies, Spirit AeroSystems senior vice president of Global Fabrication.
“With our Norsk collaboration, Spirit is bringing the power and benefits of additive manufacturing in support of our customers.”
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Featured image shows Norsk’s Rapid Plasma Deposition process. Photo via Norsk Titanium.