There are few companies that have been busier lately than Norsk Titanium. In the last few days, the additive manufacturing company and creator of Rapid Plasma Deposition (RPD) technology made a slew of announcements, most of them relating to partnerships advancing the use of RPD technology in the aerospace and other industries. Let’s take a look:
A couple of months ago, Norsk Titanium received a production order from Boeing for the first FAA-approved 3D printed structural titanium components for a commercial aircraft, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Yesterday, Norsk announced that it has made the first delivery of the parts to Boeing, on time.
“Delivery of these first three part numbers represents significant progress for additive manufacturing: qualification with the OEM, certification with the FAA, and the ability to transition to production and meet customer cost, quality and delivery expectations,” said Norsk Titanium President & Chief Executive Officer Warren M. Boley, Jr. “Norsk Titanium delivering on a significantly reduced timeline further signals the ancillary cost benefits that customers may realize with additive manufacturing: lead time reduction, lower inventory requirements, and future spare parts continuity assurances.”
The components will be among those on display this week at the International Paris Air Show. You can see them, as well as a full-scale mock-up of the MERKE IV machine that produced them, at Norsk’s booth in Hall 1, Space H299.
Norsk Titanium has signed a commercial agreement with Spirit AeroSystems to produce 3D printed titanium structural airplane components as well. Spirit AeroSystems manufacturers thousands of titanium parts for global customers every year, and believes that at least 30 percent of them could be produced using Norsk’s proprietary Rapid Plasma Deposition process.
“We are pleased to enter into this innovative commercial agreement with Norsk Titanium to fabricate compliant and high-quality parts for our customers,” said Spirit President and CEO Tom Gentile. “Reducing our material cost and our environmental impact is a win-win for Spirit, our customers and the communities where we do business.”
The two companies have been working together to develop the technology since 2008, and the new commercial agreement will extend the partnership and allow for the identification of parts that can be immediately produced with RPD.
In other partnership news, Norsk announced that it has completed testing of its RPD material with Thales Alenia Space. The two companies signed a contract in 2016 to develop, produce and test an initial qualification component using RPD technology, to assess the effectiveness of the method to replace near-net-shape forgings for spaceflight applications. This week, Norsk announced that mechanical testing has been completed, and the RPD material performed to the standards developed by the two companies.
“Norsk Titanium is delighted to mature our relationship with Thales Alenia Space,” said Boley. “Along with our recent commercial aerospace successes, this provides further evidence that Norsk Titanium’s Rapid Plasma Deposition™ material is ready to support the stringent requirements of the in-space market, revolutionizing how the industry incorporates titanium into their critical designs.”
Last year, Norsk signed a Long Term Agreement (LTA) with Mecachrome, a leader in precision-engineered components for the automotive and aerospace industries. A few days ago, the two companies announced that they have successfully established an industrial-scale supply chain capable of delivering high quality, low cost 3D printed titanium structural components for the aerospace industry using RPD technology.
“Mecachrome’s cutting-edge manufacturing processes have allowed for the low-cost production of FAA certified additive manufactured components,” said Norsk Titanium SVP of Operations Christopher Bohlmann. “Their capability has allowed for greatly improved buy-to-fly ratios with a one hundred percent machining yield on the first production lot. Mecachrome’s ability to achieve 100% yield with the extremely small machining margins of RPD™ is a testament to their capability.”
Norsk and Mechachrome are continuing to collaborate on cost improvement initiatives and are bidding on production orders from several aerospace customers in Europe and North America.
Moving away from the aerospace industry, Norsk Titanium has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with German company thyssenkrupp Marine Systems, which is working to replace the Norwegian Navy’s four Ula class submarines with more modern submarines based on the HDW class 212A design. Titanium is an important material for the new submarines, so thyssenkrupp signed the MoU with Norsk for the use of RPD technology.
“Close cooperation with the Norwegian industry, state-of-the-art technologies and trustful long term partnerships are key success factors to our concept in Norway,” said Dr. Rolf Wirtz, CEO of thyssenkrupp Marine Systems. “With the signed agreement, we are happy to have taken another step towards maximizing domestic industry involvement in this project.”
Finally, Norsk has finalized a definitive purchase agreement with Fort Schuyler Management Corporation and Empire State Development for 12 of its RPD MERKE IV machines, to be used in Norsk’s Plattsburgh, New York production center. That brings the total number of the machines, including backlog and delivered orders, to 32. The agreement is incremental to the 20-machine order announced last year; machines from that order are being delivered throughout 2017. The new order will begin delivery in the middle of 2018.
Each MERKE IV machine is capable of producing up to 20 tons of 3D printed material per year with significant reductions in waste and energy, allowing for cost savings of more than 30% over legacy forging and billet production techniques.
“Norsk Titanium’s new production and development facilities will bolster the North Country’s advanced manufacturing sector and the increasing demand for their products is great news for the local economy,” said Empire State Development President, CEO & Commissioner Howard Zemsky. “Norsk continues to meet or exceed their commitments to the State and we look forward to their continued growth in Upstate New York.”