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Airbus, university team on 3-D printing

Keywords: Tags  titanium, airliner parts, Airbus Group, North Western Polytechnical University, 3-D printing, additive manufacturing, Frank Haflich

LOS ANGELES — Europe’s Airbus Group NV is teaming with a Chinese university to investigate the future use of additive manufacturing for titanium airliner parts.

The Blagnac, France-based company has signed a cooperation agreement with China’s North Western Polytechnical University “on exploring ways to further apply 3-D printing technology in the commercial aviation sector,” Airbus said in a statement.

The university will manufacture “test specimens” of titanium alloy parts to Airbus specifications using its laser solid forming technology. The parts will then be “measured and assessed” by Airbus.

Airbus said it’s exploring the use of 3-D printing to make individual parts or “even larger airframe structures” for its airliners, which include the A320, A380 and new A350 XWB (extra wide body) families. The aircraft builder also said it is mulling the technology for spare parts output, since it is “ideal for producing cost-effective, out-of-production” parts on demand.

Airbus estimates the use of 3-D printing could result in components that are as much as 55 percent lighter than those produced via traditional manufacturing methods.

The plane builder described 3-D printing as “ideally suited” for low-volume parts production, as well as prototyping.

Rafael Gonzalez-Ripoll, chief operating officer of Airbus China, said research and technology projects such as the one with North Western Polytechnical University are an important part of the aircraft company’s “growing strategic partnership” with China.

Further details on the project weren’t immediately available from Airbus.

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