The latest Airbus A350 XWB plane is being delivered right now to fliers across the world, with external component manufacturer Stratasys extremely proud of the fact that the plane has more 3D printed parts than any other -- over 1,000 bits were printed.
They're lighter, they say, with new 3D printing materials offering greater strength than previous generation technology, allowing manufacturers to get the same amount of strength from a thing that's less heavy -- so you can understand why aeroplane makers are so keen to sack the metalworkers in favour of the new 3D printers.
But do you feel a bit uneasy knowing that some new manufacturing technique has made parts of a thing that's holding you 35,000 feet above the ground in a chair?
It's a similar problem to that of the autopilot. It's somehow reassuring that aeroplanes aren't entirely automated, as we -- perhaps wildly incorrectly -- assume that having a man theoretically able to wrestle control away from a rogue computer may somehow make flying safer. Would you fly on a plane with no pilot?
Would you recoil in horror like Rainman at the KLM desk in Tenerife* should someone try to suggest you take a flight on a plane loaded with 3D printed parts, lest someone in the supply chain have used a cheap 3D printer toner cartridge that's not up to the job?
Or is it just how things are made now, so who cares if the bits were printed in an office by a man in a suit rather than melted together in a warehouse by a man with a welder? [BBC]
*583 dead, worst crash in aviation history.