Boeing’s Space Taxis To Use More Than 600 3D-Printed Parts

This Reuter’s exclusive announces that Boeing Co. has hired Oxford Performance Materials to make about 600 3D-printed parts for its Starliner space taxis, meaning key components in the United States manned space program are being built with additive manufacturing.

Oxford Performance Materials also announced a $10 million strategic investment from advanced materials company Hexcel Corp, adding to $15 million Hexcel invested in May and lifting Hexcel’s equity stake to 16.1 percent, Oxford and Hexcel said.

Boeing’s award of the parts for its flagship space program and Hexcel’s funding are strategic bets that printed plastics can perform flawlessly even under the extreme stress of a rocket launch and sub-zero temperatures of space.

They offer further evidence of a shift in 3D printing from making prototypes to commercial production of high-grade parts for space ships, aircraft engines and other critical equipment.

Oxford’s parts will help Boeing lower costs and save weight on each seven-seat capsule, compared with traditional metal and plastic manufacturing, Larry Varholak, president of Oxford’s aerospace business, said in an interview.

A technician displays a 3-D printed thrust reverser cascade printed by an EOS 3-D printer and made of 'OXPEKK' material at Oxford Performance Materials Inc., the maker of more than 600 parts to be used on Boeing's maned Starliner spacecraft

A technician displays a 3-D printed thrust reverser cascade printed by an EOS 3-D printer and made of ‘OXPEKK’ material at Oxford Performance Materials Inc., the maker of more than 600 parts to be used on Boeing’s maned Starliner spacecraft in South Windsor, Connecticut, U.S., January 31, 2017. (Source: REUTERS/Mike Segar)

>> Read more by Alwyn Scott, Reuters, February 3, 2017