This week, aircraft manufacturer Boeing officially celebrated the opening of its Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence in Auburn, Washington.
The facility employs more than 100 people who will operate the multitude of printers in the factory that will continue to research, develop and manufacture the lightweight components for Boeing’s aircraft and spacecraft products. And that’s a lot of components, as Boeing currently has more than 70,000 3D printed parts in its portfolio.
While the facility officially opened in 2020, the pandemic cut short any kind of formal opening, so this week they finally had a chance to rectify that.
“It’s been a while since we’ve done this, but this is the first time we’ve had the opportunity to celebrate it,” said Susan Champlain, Boeing’s senior director of state and local government operations.
The facility has the capacity to print on a variety of metals such as aluminum and titanium in its dedicated 32,000-square-foot print room with nine machines and lab equipment, including EOS powder bed fusion machines.
In addition, they cover the entire range of plastics suitable for the aerospace industry.
Plastic printers also have their own dedicated area in a 4,500 square foot space with 13 filament deposition machines and post-processing capabilities. Plastic printers are used to print tools and parts such as ducts, brackets, and interiors.
Their plastics section also houses their large format printer which has a 20 foot print bed that can print tools up to 10 feet wide, 20 feet long and 5 feet tall. In addition, the facility uses Stratasys Fortus machines, which are capable of printing high-performance, high-temperature plastics such as ULTEM 9085 (polyetherimide).
“Additive manufacturing basically allows us to explore new ways to create our products,” said Melissa Orme, vice president of Boeing Additive Manufacturing (BAM).
“We can create pieces that are not possible in practice or traditionally.”
“Additive manufacturing really aligns with our company’s commitment to reduce global impact or carbon footprint,” Orme said.
This isn’t the only Boeing-related AM story this week, as it stems from the recent announcement that Boeing and Northrop Grumman have joined the Additive Manufacturing Forward (AM Forward) initiative.
AM Forward is a program introduced by the White House to encourage the use of AM in American manufacturing. Their goal is to lower the cost of AM goods, which makes manufacturing in the US more competitive with Asian countries (China in particular). This will strengthen the supply chain by reducing dependency on foreign imports.
You can learn more about Boeing’s additive manufacturing developments in the video below.