Boeing reduces lead time and saves money by 3d printing aircraft parts
According to reports, Boeing has filed a patent application for manufacturing aircraft parts with a 3d printer. The application outlines a detailed process of turning a 3d design file into a 3d printed object through a central database management system that Boeing and its customers can use to fulfil spare part orders.
A Boeing spokesperson revealed that the aviation giant has been using 3d printing since 1997, and it currently 3d prints approximately 300 non-metallic parts across 10 different aircraft platforms. In total, this equates to more than 20,000 3d printed parts flying in the skies today - components that can essentially be replaced with a push of a button and a high-end 3d printer located anywhere in the world.
Boeing wants to continue replacing conventionally manufactured parts with 3d printed components, meaning its aircraft will become increasingly reliant on 3d printing technology. In many ways, this patent application embodies the disruptive power of 3d printing to fundamentally change the way things are made - future aircraft included.
To understand the value 3d printing offers to Boeing and its customers, the patent application cited a major challenge facing aircraft operators today.
During the lifetime of an aircraft, parts may be replaced. In order to meet demand for replacement parts, aircraft manufacturers may keep an inventory of parts on hand. A client may request parts from the aircraft manufacturer when a replacement part is desired.
However, receiving requested parts from the aircraft manufacturer may take an undesirable amount of time for a client. Some clients may keep an inventory of parts on hand to avoid waiting an undesirable amount of time.
However, storing an inventory of extra parts either at an aircraft manufacturer or at a client may use an undesirable amount of resources.
On a high level, 3d printing is an additive manufacturing process that creates 3d objects one layer at time, essentially ‘growing’ parts out of hundreds or thousands of layers, depending on the object's size. Compared to conventional subtractive manufacturing processes, 3d printing doesn't require tooling, which invites design complexity; can reduce lead times and costs; and changes the way inventory could be managed.
In other words, Boeing wants to 3d print more aircraft parts because it offers the potential to significantly improve cost structures and waiting times for itself and customers. With only a few hundred aircraft parts currently being 3d printed across Boeing's aircraft platforms, there's tremendous opportunity to improve that figure, even if 3d printing only grew to represent 1 percent of total parts in a given a commercial aircraft.
Thus far, only non-metallic 3d-printed parts have made it inside Boeing's aircraft, suggesting the company is primarily focused on replacing conventionally manufactured components that won't affect a plane's structural integrity. In the future, Boeing might use 3d printing for more mission-critical applications, considering the patent application makes direct mention of a 3d printing data management system that works with metals and metal alloys.
As an early adopter of 3d printing, Boeing clearly understands how the technology offers the potential to change the aviation industry for the better. Ultimately, 3d printing gives Boeing the ability to improve how spare parts are made by reducing lead times and costs, a savings that can be passed along to operators, which also stand to benefit from shorter maintenance times.
Although we're a long way from Boeing's next aircraft being entirely 3d printed, the company's embrace of the technology and all the potential efficiency gains that come with it could provide an unexpected tailwind to earnings over the long haul.
Siemens: Providing the First Industrial 5G Router
Across a number of industry sectors, there’s a growing need for both local wireless connectivity and remote access to machines and plants. In both of these cases, communication is, more often than not, over a long distance. Public wireless data networks can be used to enable this connectivity, both nationally and internationally, which makes the new 5G network mainframe an absolutely vital element of remote access and remote servicing solutions as we move into the interconnected age.
Siemens Enables 5G IIoT
The eagerly awaited Scalance MUM856-1, Siemens’ very first industrial 5G router, is officially available to organisations. The device has the ability to connect all local industrial applications to the public 5G, 4G (LTE), and 3G (UMTS) mobile wireless networks ─ allowing companies to embrace the long-awaited Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
The router can be used to remotely monitor and service plants, machines, as well as control elements and other industrial devices via a public 5G network ─ flexibly and with high data rates. Something that has been in incredibly high demand after being teased by the leading network providers for years.
Scalance MUM856-1 at a Glance
- Scalance MUM856-1 connects local industrial applications to public 5G, 4G, and 3G mobile wireless networks
- The router supports future-oriented applications such as remote access via public 5G networks or the connection of mobile devices such as automated guided vehicles in industry
- A robust version in IP65 housing for use outside the control cabinet
- Prototypes of Siemens 5G infrastructure for private networks already in use at several sites
“To ensure the powerful connection of Ethernet-based subnetworks and automation devices, the Scalance MUM856-1 supports Release 15 of the 5G standard. The device offers high bandwidths of up to 1000 Mbps for the downlink and up to 500 Mbps for the uplink – providing high data rates for data-intensive applications such as the remote implementation of firmware updates. Thanks to IPv6 support, the devices can also be implemented in modern communication networks.
Various security functions are included to monitor data traffic and protect against unauthorised access: for example, an integrated firewall and authentication of communication devices and encryption of data transmission via VPN. If there is no available 5G network, the device switches automatically to 4G or 3G networks. The first release version of the router has an EU radio license; other versions with different licenses are in preparation. With the Sinema Remote Connect management platform for VPN connections, users can access remote plants or machines easily and securely – even if they are integrated in other networks. The software also offers easy management and autoconfiguration of the devices,” Siemens said.
Preparing for a 5G-oriented Future
Siemens has announced that the new router can also be integrated into private 5G networks. This means that the Scalance MUM856-1 is, essentially, future-proofed when it comes to 5G adaptability; it supports future-oriented applications, including ‘mobile robots in manufacturing, autonomous vehicles in logistics or augmented reality applications for service technicians.’
And, for use on sites where conditions are a little harsher, Siemens has given the router robust IP65 housing ─ it’s “dust tight”, waterproof, and immersion-proofed.
The first release version of the router has an EU radio license; other versions with different licenses are in preparation. “With the Sinema Remote Connect management platform for VPN connections, users can access remote plants or machines easily and securely – even if they are integrated in other networks. The software also offers easy management and auto-configuration of the devices,” Siemens added.