Nothing has fired up the public’s imagination over the past few years like 3D printing. The technology is in the process of rapidly moving from a sci-fi fantasy to a household object, and fittingly, it’s expected many manufacturers across industries will begin using 3D printers. In the airline industry, this has so far meant the fast, easy duplication and enhancement of small, lightweight parts – such as fuel nozzles. But a Chinese company is thinking on a much grander scale, and plans to use a massive 3D printer to create 5-meter-long titanium wing spars and equally long wind beams.
3Ders.org, a website chronicling the latest updates on the technology, reports that late last month a Chinese company showed off the world’s largest titanium aircraft critical component that had been produced using 3D technology at a conference in Beijing. According to the company, they have used 3D printers to produce seven kinds of aircraft. Since the project has been funded by the Chinese government, especially the military, the parts are being produced mainly for stealth fighters – but it’s likely commercial aviation will soon follow their lead, since the process could save up to 90 percent on materials and costs of producing an airplane. The only problem is, with this giant 3D printer, it’s possible for the Chinese government to forge parts made by other companies – so who knows what could happen in the future.