It has been a busy day at the Dubai Air Show. It was announced today that Airbus, the sole competitor to rival aircraft manufacturer Boeing, secured an estimated $50 billion order to produce 430 A320neo commercial planes in partnership with U.S. investor Indigo Partners, the owner of several low-cost airlines operating around the world. Reported as the largest deal in Airbus’s history, the manufacturing deal for 430 medium-range jets would be the last of the company’s announced dealings at the expo in the Gulf.
Airbus also announced that it would be teaming up with Arconic, a spinoff of company of storied metals and manufacturing titan Alcoa launched last year. Alcoa and Arconic are both synonymous with aviation, and the younger of the two is working to solidify its foothold in the industry by partnering with Airbus for a multi-year research partnership centered around evolving 3D printing technology. The companies will work together to develop and test processes and specifications for airplane parts which include pylon spars and rib structures measuring up to three feet in length. Together, they aim to produce parts through additive manufacturing processes which are more cost and time effective than current methods used to manufacture parts used for aviation.
The partnership will utilize light-metal producer Arconic’s Ampliforge production process, which combines additive and traditional manufacturing processes by augmenting the 3D printed parts with traditional processes such as forging. It was also reported that electron beam high deposition rate technology, which according to Arconic produces large components, “up to 100 times faster than [3D-printing] technologies used for smaller, more intricate components”.
This will not be the first time that the Arconic and Airbus have teamed up to utilize 3D printing processes in the production of parts for Airbus planes. The Airbus A350 XWB contains a titanium bracket that was printed through additive manufacturing processes in an Austin, TX facility.
Executive Vice President of Arconic Engineered Products Eric Roegner added,
Additive manufacturing promises a world where lighter, more complex aerospace parts are produced cheaper and faster. We’re joining forces to make that potential a reality in a bigger way than ever before.