Farnborough Air Show

Norsk Earns Boeing Approval for Titanium Parts

 - July 15, 2018, 8:00 AM
Production floor at Norsk Titanium’s Plattsburgh, New York Demonstration & Qualification Center.

Additive manufacturing pioneer Norsk Titanium (Hall 4, Stand 41430) comes to Farnborough International Airshow 2018 on the heels of announcing its U.S. Plattsburgh Development and Qualification Center (PDQC) in New York state has been added to Boeing’s Qualified Producers List. Dedicated last October, PDQC began qualified production of 3D printed structural titanium components for the 787 Dreamliner in mid May, making it the world’s first industrial-scale metal additive manufacturing plant.

At FIA, the Norwegian company is presenting a display of its proprietary Rapid Plasma Deposition (RPD) technology.

Norsk’s RPD process uses titanium wire with plasma torches to print titanium structural components on an industrial scale, and the company claims it is manufacturing the industry’s first FAA-approved, 3D-printed, structural titanium parts. RPD can be used to produce large structural components weighing more than 100 pounds, is 50 to 100 times faster than powder-based systems and uses 25 to 50 percent less titanium than incumbent forging processes, according to Norsk. A modular manufacturing capability, the process can be integrated into any production line that manufactures titanium alloy parts, allowing for lean manufacturing infrastructure and overall efficiency improvements.

PDQC has nine of Norsk's RPD titanium printing machines, created in partnership between Norsk and the state of New York, representing the advancement of technology that originated at the company’s Engineering and Technology Center in Norway, which continues to operate qualified and approved RPD machines. Each machine at PDQC is estimated to have an annual fabricating capacity of more than 20 metric tons.

Last summer Norsk announced a 60 percent expansion of the PDQC facility, which will produce aerospace components for Boeing, Spirit AeroSystems, and other aerospace manufacturers. The future site of the planned Norsk Titanium Production Center is less than half a mile from PDQC.

“Receiving this qualification from Boeing, now qualifying two Norsk sites for production across the globe, is a true vote of confidence in our service, quality, and disruptive RPD technology,” said Norsk COO Tamara Morytko.

Norsk sees growing demand for titanium parts in aerospace. Nearly half of the airframe of a modern airliner is composed of carbon-fiber reinforced plastic and other composites, which goes hand in hand with an increased use of titanium in place of aluminum where structural loading indicates metal is a preferred material system. Titanium can withstand comparable loads better than aluminum, has minimal fatigue concerns, and is highly resistant to corrosion. In the Boeing 787, titanium use has been expanded to roughly 14 percent of the total airframe.

Norsk estimates each Lockheed Martin F-35, at 30 percent titanium, requires the purchase of 30,000 pounds of the metal, most of which leaves the factory as scrap, waste that could be eliminated with RPD. Increases in commercial satellite constellations over the next few decades present additional opportunities, according to the company.

Last November Norsk announced a “significant investment” from Rose Park Advisors’ Disruptive Innovation Fund, known for its application of the theory of Disruptive Innovation developed by co-founder Clayton Christensen.

Recognizing the breakthrough RPD represents, in March Norsk shared with Boeing the Laureate Award from Aviation Week for extraordinary achievement in the global aerospace arena for creating the first additively manufactured structural titanium parts for a commercial aircraft. Additionally, consultancy Frost & Sullivan honored Norsk’s RPD with its 2017 Europe Technology Innovation Award.