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Boeing Files Patent for Technology to 3D Print Artificial “Ice,” Easing the Aircraft Certification Process

by • April 18, 2016 • No Comments

boeing_416x416When it comes to utilizing 3D printing innovation inside the aerospace industry, quite few companies—aside of Airbus perhaps—have been experimenting as much as Boeing. Over the last year or so, Boeing has patented a 3D printing process that prints levitating objects, and has in addition discovered a home for a over 20,000 3D printed parts on their Boeing aircraft line. The Chicago-headquartered aircraft developer has showed no signs of cooling down either (pun slightly intended), having filed an application to the US Patent Office for their freshly created process to 3D print artificial “ice.” Now, you won’t find this innovation in your future complimentary on-flight refreshment, nor anywhere else on the commercial aircraft for that matter.

In fact, Boeing is in fact planning to use this one-of-a-kind 3D printing process in order to streamline the strict aircraft certification standards process at a greatly reduced cost. At initially glance, you may not see ice crystals as much of a threat to modern day aviation. But in reality, ice buildups on aircraft wing edges can pose a significant risk, such as aerodynamic degradation and increased risk of a fatal stall while in-flight. This dilemma has led the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), one of other international aeronautical entities, to need certification that all new aircraft can safely operate in the iciest of situations.


Boeing aircraft being tested under icy conditions [Image: Gizmag]

The current methods of testing this involves supercooled wind tunnels, that allow for huge ice buildup on the aircraft surface. This buildup is and so replicated in the same ice texture via glassfiber and resin material, that is and so attached to the aircraft and tested for proper functioning while in-air. The traditional process may work well adequate, but according to Boeing, it comes with a number of hindrances, which include high cost, imprecision, time constraints, and lack of variable-bodied control, as well as the knack to cause injure to the aircraft being tested.

Vital areas to test icing conditions (Source: Boeing)

Vital areas to test icing conditions [Image: Boeing]

With their newly patented method, yet, this is shaping up to be a much additional efficient process. The artificial “ice” shapes are initially created with CAD, with all the necessary density and textural properties included into the create. These files can and so be created up layer by layer to ensure the difficult inner structure that is embedded in effortless icing conditions. Instead of going through the lengthy and costly traditional testing method, Boeing can be able-bodied to just create the icing conditions of a desktop, enabling them to complete the aimed rigidity, thickness, and other specified conditions needed to appropriately test their new aircraft.

According to Boeing, these artificial “ice” shapes can be able-bodied to printed with one-of-a-kind identification codes and markers, that can allow these structures to be properly fit and easily attributed. This new aircraft certification process was conceived by Boeing researchers Cris Bosetti, Fred Krueger, Ian Gunter, and Dean Walters, who have based the process on a high-level flowchart engineered to reduce the fabrication to the equiteday 3D files, that can be used with a handful of 3D printing processes and materials. All in all, the patent—filed September 16, 2014 and published March 17, 2016—can allow Boeing to single-handedly improve the way by that icing conditions are tested on newly manufactured aircraft. Any thoughts on this new innovation? Discuss in the 3D Printed Ice forum over at 3DPB.com.

[Source: Patent / Image: Gizmag]