Boeing looks to trim costs with first ever 3-D printed plane structure

Key Points
  • 3D components to be used on Boeing's Dreamliner
  • Norwegian firm to supply 3D parts
  • First plane ever to have 3D superstructure
How 3D technolgy is upending manufacturing
How 3D technolgy is upending manufacturing

The first 3-D printed components to be used on a commercial jet plane are all set to fly thanks to a partnership between U.S. aerospace giant Boeing and a Norwegian firm.

Norsk Titanium confirmed on its website Monday that it's now received a production order from Boeing for 3-D printed structural titanium components to be used on the Dreamliner 787.

The Dreamliner will be the first plane to fly with "Additive-Manufactured" 3-D parts that make up part of the plane's load bearing structure.

On the release, Boeing said the new process should save on the cost of production.

"From the outset, the 787 has been the hallmark of innovation and efficiency," said John Byrne, vice president, Airplane Materials and Structures & Supplier Management at Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

"We are always looking at the latest technologies to drive cost reduction, performance and value to our customers and Norsk Titanium's RPD™ capability fits the bill in a new and creative way."

Norsk told Reuters it will print initially in Norway, but aims to have nine printers running in New York by the end of 2017.

The Dreamliner 787 plane sells for a list price of $312.8 million and is being built at Boeing's factory in North Charleston, South Carolina.

The Dreamliner turned profitable for Boeing last year after the cost of each plane produced finally fell below the sales price.

Boeing's largest and latest Dreamliner model, the 787-10, tested successfully in March and claims to have 10 percent better fuel efficiency than any commercial plane currently in the sky.

Airlines who buy the Dreamliner can choose engines from General Electric Co in the U.S. or Britain's Rolls-Royce Holdings.