3-D printing blasts off to supply Boeing's space taxi: Reuters
- Boeing recently hired Oxford Performance Materials to produce 600 3-D printed components for the aerospace company's Starliner space taxis, Reuters reported last week, marking the first time vital parts for a space program are built through additive manufacturing.
- Boeing's inclusion of 3D parts for its space program and Oxford's receipt of a second strategic investment from Hexcel Corp. demonstrate the growing understanding that 3-D printed plastics are viable under the pressure of a rocket launch and the extraordinary chill of deep space.
- The explosive acceptance of 3D technology is revealed in its earnings, which were roughly $5.2 billion in 2015. The Wohlers Report, which analyzes the 3D-printing market, predicts sales will reach $26.5 billion by 2021.
3-D printing skeptics argue additive manufacturing may be less resilient than the more traditional processes, even if more precise and efficient, but the incorporation of 3-D printed into Boeing's space taxi technology shows the company and its supplier are confident in the products ruggedness. The incorporation in aerospace, however, is but the latest step in the decades-long effort to bring additive manufacturing to the mainstream of production.
3-D printing first appeared in the late 80’s, when it was meant to serve as an inexpensive and quick means of prototype creation for product development. Since that time, the uses and applications in which it proves useful include a variety of industries, from medical to maritime, automotive to industrial.
The supply chain is particularly affected by 3-D printing, as optimization is increased exponentially as a result. This occurs when production can be either limited for demonstration models, or when lean manufacturing requires that production occur only when demand is present, since the storage requirements of 3D files is minimal at most. In addition, the technology allows companies to expedite what is arguably the first step of the internal supply chain: bringing a new product from design to prototype several times, before it reaches production.
Given all the uses for 3-D printing and increasingly debunked fears, it is no surprise the market is expected to grow five times its size in the next five years. Supply chains stand to benefit greatly from this shift.
- Sculpteo 3D Printing applications broaden horizon of many industries
- 3D Printing Industry History of 3D Printing
- The Future of Things The Future of 3D Printing
- Reuters Exclusive: Boeing's space taxis to use more than 600 3D-printed parts
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