- Norsk Titanium AS has developed a new, faster approach to 3-D printing, using titanium wire rather than powder as the printing base. The company will soon unveil a broad partnership with Spirit AeroSystems, a major subcontractor for Boeing.
- Norsk and other aerospace manufacturers are ready to begin crafting large structural jetliner parts via 3-D printing technology, but they're waiting on the approval of U.S. safety regulators, who are not expected to act until 2018.
- Though approximately 30% less expensive than traditionally made parts, the FAA seeks consistency of production quality regarding the the titanium-printed parts. According to a recent report from Additive Manufacturing, an AM lab had to be shut down because it did not meet safety protocol.
Though makers of new technology often chafe at the delays imposed by government safety committees, safety is still important. Businesses often want to take risks with new technology as they experiment how to grow and improve production, but the flip side is that they need to be prepared for federal scrutiny and potential setbacks due to safety concerns.
Furthermore, quality assurance (QA) is notoriously difficult for manufacturers to guarantee. One way to measure quality is the pyramid method, with quality parts at the top, resting on two key components: build planning and build monitoring, joined by feedback control. The third tier consists of raw materials and calibration, while the base holds information management and information assurance, both of which support a sound QA process.
3-D printing may increase optimization — expediting the supply chain process so that manufacturers can test prototypes quickly before moving to production — but regulatory scrutiny may negate any increase in production speed. This may be frustrating for supply chain managers, but until 3-D printing is accepted by regulators as a reliable means of production, manufacturers that use 3-D printing should expect delays.