Swiss engineering firm Oerlikon and plane maker Boeing have inked a five-year collaboration deal seeking to create standard processes and materials with a view to producing structural titanium components using 3D printing. According to Oerlikon the two firms will initially focus on research aimed at ensuring that the parts manufactured using this process are able to meet the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration requirements as well as those of the Defense Department.
Per the chief executive officer of Oerlikon, Roland Fischer, additive manufacturing will be adopted at a faster rate through the partnership.
“Working together with Boeing will define the path in producing airworthy additive manufacturing components for serial manufacturing,” Fischer said.
Boeing has been conducting research on additive manufacturing for more than two decades now and this has resulted in the installation of various components across the product line. In 2017 Boeing announced that it had become the first manufacturer of airplanes to successfully design and install a 3D-printed titanium part approved by the Federal Aviation Administration on a commercial aircraft – the 787.
The inking of a deal between Boeing and Oerlikon comes in the wake of an Australia-based airline Qantas joining the two largest airlines in the world in calling for the plane maker to launch the 797 which is expected to get rid of the economy squeeze. Carriers based in the United States such as United Airlines and Delta Air Lines are interested in the Boeing 797 as it will offer more comfort due to its seat configuration. The plane will have a 1-1-1 configuration in business class, 1-2-2 configuration in premium economy and 2-3-2 seat configuration in economy.
Just like is the case with the 787 the 797 will also made out of composite materials. It will also possess new engines designed for medium-haul routes. With a seating capacity of 220 to 270 passengers the 797 will have a range of around 10-11 hours. The Boeing 797 is also expected to be fuel efficient as it will consume between 25% and 30% less fuel compared to the Boeing 787.
In the recent past a top engineer at Boeing, Terry Beezhold, was reassigned to work on the 797 and this was an indication that the plane maker is serious about the new plane. Beezhold previously held lead roles with regards to the 787. He was also the 777X’s project engineer.
The first time the 797 concept was floated was in the 1980s though at the time there weren’t enough takers. But with passengers repeatedly complaining over cramped seating airlines have begun showing rising interest in the plane.