Boeing and Oerlikon Collaborate to Advance 3D Printing of Titanium Aerospace Components
Aerospace giant Boeing and Swiss technology group Oerlikon have signed a partnership to advance the 3D printing process. The five-year partnership will initially focus on powder bed additives for structural titanium components used in the aerospace industry. The goal is to standardize everything from initial powder management to finished products.
In recent years, 3D printing has made many significant advances, especially in the field of metal-based additive printing. The agreement reached between Boeing and Oerlikon further emphasizes the fact that the technology is entering the mainstream. When the industry began to talk about standardization, this clearly demonstrated that titanium metal 3D printing is shifting from novelty to everyday manufacturing.
The whole process requires a machine that can deposit a layer of metal powder. The laser guided by the 3D design file then sinters the cross-section of the desired product in the powder bed before adding another layer, and the process is repeated until completion. The excess powder is then removed with any temporary support structure before the part is finally finished.
For metals such as aluminum, this is relatively simple, but titanium is known to be difficult to work with any process, and 3D printing is no exception. It involves a very thorough plan, and the items to be printed exist only in digital form. During the printing process, the density of titanium is difficult to control because of its melting temperature and the final surface finish. In addition, changing the prototype's design during development has a knock-on effect on metal and 3D printing processes.
The current agreement initially focused on the standardization of titanium-based 3D printing and ensured that print components meet the flight requirements and quality and cost targets of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Department of Defense (DoD).