Plastic Yoda figurines, spinning tops and other knickknacks aren’t all you can make with a 3-D printer. The world’s largest aerospace companies have bigger things in mind. Much bigger.
The Boeing Company recently partnered with Oak Ridge National Laboratory to 3-D-print an object the size of a large SUV to help make airplane wings. Boeing’s record-breaking new tool is the largest solid object ever printed, and it took just 30 hours to make. Building the 1,600-pound object conventionally would have taken three months.
“The industry is moving fast on additive manufacturing,” says Jim Kabbara, who led the Federal Aviation Administration’s Additive Manufacturing National Team for the team’s first year and a half until 2016.
The FAA regulates all aspects of the civil aviation industry, including the burgeoning interest in 3-D printing technology. However, the transition to 3-D-printed parts is moving in “baby steps,” with an eye toward safety, Kabbara is careful to say.