3D printing can be traced back to the late 1980’s when a patent was filed for stereolithography apparatus, a machine that turns liquid plastic into solid objects. Now, 3D printing is being adopted by transportation companies to lower costs and increase the efficiency of their products. Boeing is using 3D printed components on their 787 Dreamliner commercial aircraft and McLaren is using them to improve their Formula 1 cars.
3D Printing for Boeing
Each Boeing 787 Dreamliner costs $265 million to build, and 144 are built every year. $17 million of the $265 million is used to purchase “strong and lightweight titanium alloy components required to support the carbon fiber fuselage and wings,” according to PCMag.
Norsk Titanium recently announced a purchase order from Boeing for 3D-printed structural components. Boeing and Norsk Titanium worked together for several months to develop the specially designed components and each have passed testing from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Using a 3D printer for these components will save Boeing $3 million every time they build a 787 Dreamliner.
3D Printing for Formula 1 Creates Efficiencies
Formula 1 cars are constantly being upgraded and changed to improve their speed and performance. However, each part is specially designed and requires extended amounts of time to produce.
In an effort to improve the efficiency of the process, McLaren has began relying on 3D printers. Recently, a 3D printer used by McLaren produced a rear wing in a week and a half compared to the five weeks it normally requires to build and install. McLaren has already produced over 50 functional parts for their Formula 1 cars on 3D printers.
McLaren’s 3D printing team is developing their parts out of plastic. Once printed, the part is covered in carbon fiber and the plastic on the inside is dissolved. Eventually, McLaren would like to only use carbon fiber to make the process even simpler.
McLaren is printing the parts in its London office. They also bring a 3D printer to the races their cars are competing in. As the technology improves, McLaren would like to have a 3D printer in their pit stop to produce parts as needed throughout the race.
3D printers are allowing companies to be more experimental with their products. They can purchase their own printers, hire their own team and focus on improving their products with less worry about making a mistake. This versatility will help companies release products faster and improve their trial and error process.