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European Airplane Maker Prints Some of Its Parts



For VOA Learning English, this is the Technology Report.

European airplane maker Airbus plans to have new passenger airplanes by the end of the year. The new models will use some of the most modern technologies, including metal parts made in a 3-D printer. The high price of airline travel is largely the result of fuel costs. So, airplane manufacturers want to build lighter planes with more fuel efficient engines. They also want their planes to have more seats. Modern airplanes, like the large Boeing 787 Dreamliner, are made from a mixture of plastic and carbon materials. The current Airbus A350 plane uses plastic parts created in a 3-D printer. But the model A350-XWB plane will be the first with parts printed in the hard metal, titanium.

Peter Sander of Airbus says company technicians learned to print very complex shapes. 3D printing also helps when parts are no longer available. Mr. Sander says Airbus engineers recently needed an extra part for airplane seats that was no longer made. He says it was fast and easy to redesign the parts and to print perfect copies. He said the process took one week. The technology is developing quickly. Axel Krein is vice-president of Research and Technology at Airbus. He says the number of printed airplane parts will continue to increase. He says Airbus is investing a lot of money in aerodynamic improvements, in materials and in noise reduction. But he says 3D printing is probably the area with the greatest gain. The U.S. company General Electric says it is investing $50 million in a new 3D printing factory. The factory will print fuel system parts for airplane engines.

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