Working with components and systems provider Moog, SIngapore-based engineering group ST Engineering, and Microsoft, Air New Zealand successfully completed a world-first experiment.
Air New Zealand ordered a digital aircraft part file from Singapore-based ST Engineering while one of its Boeing 777-300 airliners was en route to Los Angeles.
The file was sent to a Moog-operated 3D printer in Los Angeles, and within hours the resulting part — a bumper, which prevents a video screen from damaging the seat it is fitted to — was installed in time for the return flight.
VeriPart ensures the integrity of the process by using a blockchain. This authenticates the part, and prevents a purchaser from printing more parts than they are entitled to.
“Being able to 3D print certain components on the go would be transformative and drive significant efficiencies and sustainability benefits," said Air New Zealand chief ground operations officer Carrie Hurihanganui.
"Rather than having the cost associated with purchasing, shipping and storing physical parts and potentially having to fly an aircraft with an unavailable seat, this system would allow us to print a part when and where we need it in hours.”
The proof of concept could usher in a future of distributed networks starting with a digital design file and ending with a physical part, decreasing lead times and result in less down time for airlines – something travellers are sure to welcome.