Stories

Regulators not convinced by 3D-printed titanium airplane parts

Major parts suppliers for airplane manufacturers like Boeing are ready to use cutting-edge 3-D printing technology, but regulators like the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration have yet to sign off.

  • Boeing subcontractor Spirit AeroSystems Holdings is ready to produce thousands of its parts 30% more cheaply by using 3-D printing technology, The Wall Street Journal reports, whereby titanium is melted and then precision-deposited, layer-by-layer, to build the final part.
  • The Journal reports the FAA isn't ready to certify the technology as "reliable enough to ensure identical strength and other properties from batch to batch," and the approval process could take until 2018.
  • Why it matters: Technology is advancing more quickly than regulators are keeping up. In the case of aerospace manufacturing, this dynamic is about ensuring passenger safety. But for other technologies like self-driving cars, regulators will be concerned about other effects like job loss.