Boeing Files For Broad Patent Encompassing 3D-Printed Aircraft Parts
Boeing, a company already using 3D-printed aircraft parts, has reportedly filed for a broad patent under the title of “Three Dimensional Printing of Parts.”
Boeing spokesman Nathan Hulings says the company only uses non-metallic 3D printed parts on production programs at the moment and that “When production 3D printed parts need replacing, we use 3D printed parts.”
Hulings added, “We have approximately 300 different part numbers on 10 different aircraft production programs, which amounts to more than 20,000 non-metallic additive manufactured parts that are on vehicles that we have delivered to our customers. The F/A-18 Super Hornet has approximately 150 parts in the forward fuselage area that have been produced through selective laser sintering.”
While a patent application like this appears to be a half-hearted attempt at controlling a broad market, Boeing cites a major reason for moving forward with the application involves stockpiling and waiting for parts.
“Receiving requested parts from the aircraft manufacturer may take an undesirable amount of time for a client,” the application notes. “Some clients may keep an inventory of parts on hand to avoid waiting an undesirable amount of time. However, storing an inventory of extra parts either at an aircraft manufacturer or at a client may use an undesirable amount of resources.”
Perhaps the most interesting part I learned from this whole ordeal is the fact Boeing has been working with 3D printing technologies since 1997, meaning they have probably developed more advanced techniques/processes than most companies who recently started exploring the 3D printing industry.