Mar. 9, 2015 | By Alec

In today’s lawyer-infested society, filing patents for your ideas and inventions has taken some extreme forms. As it is in many other industries, companies experimenting with 3D printing technology are increasingly resorting to filing patents for their services. The most recent example would be Amazon’s recent decision to file a patent for 3D printing onboard delivery vans.

Aircraft manufacturer Boeing is the next in line to file a patent concerning 3D printing. In a patent application published this week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), this giant of the airplane industry is requesting a patent for ‘Three Dimensional Printing of Parts’, a method and apparatus for requesting, authorizing and manufacturing replacement aircraft parts.

"The apparatus comprises a parts library, a database, and a parts management system. The parts library is configured to store a plurality of part definition files. The database is configured to store entries identifying a printing of parts using the plurality of part definition files. The parts management system is configured to receive a request for a part definition file in the parts library, identify the part definition file in the plurality of part definition files in the parts library, receive an indication of a printing of a part using the part definition file, and store an entry identifying the printing of the part using the part definition file in the database," they write in the request.

While not a description that is easy to follow, Boeing is essentially requesting a patent on manufacturing replacement aircraft parts. As Boeing spokesperson Nathan Hulings explains, this specifically concerns replacing already non-metal 3D printed parts with new ones that also need to be 3D printed. "When production 3D printed parts need replacing, we use 3D printed parts," he explains. "We have approximately 300 different part numbers on 10 different aircraft production programs, which amounts to more than 20,000 non-metallic additive manufactured parts that are on vehicles that we have delivered to our customers."

In short, Boeing has already reached a far further stage of 3D printing applications than Amazon and the company is already using 3D printing technology for a wide range of parts used on actual airworthy planes. "The F/A-18 Super Hornet has approximately 150 parts in the forward fuselage area that have been produced through selective laser sintering," Hulings says as an example. Boeing has, in fact, been working on 3D printing technology since 1997. "We are constantly investigating how to replace conventionally manufactured parts with 3D printed parts," Hulings adds.

As they explain in the application, 3D printing is proving a time-saving production method that enables them to cut back on inventory as well. "Receiving requested parts from the aircraft manufacturer may take an undesirable amount of time for a client," they write. "Some clients may keep an inventory of parts on hand to avoid waiting an undesirable amount of time. However, storing an inventory of extra parts either at an aircraft manufacturer or at a client may use an undesirable amount of resources."

This patent application is thus an attempt to patent something that is already in use, though the patent is looking towards the future as well. While Boeing is currently only using 3D printing for non-metallic parts for their planes, the application provides cover for a wide range of 3D printable materials as well, including polymers, plasters, metals, and metal alloys. The system described includes, "a parts library, a database, a parts management system, and a three dimensional printing system."


Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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yehoshua wrote at 7/19/2015 9:22:53 AM:

what parts do they 3d print?

french inventor with deontology! wrote at 3/9/2015 11:24:55 PM:

What a nonsense! No invention... How can professionnals do things like that!!?? It seems that deontology has escaped this world! But it s gold candidate for the BS patent award!!

arsdmthe wrote at 3/9/2015 2:54:21 PM:

this giant of the airplane industry is requesting a patent for ‘Three Dimensional Printing of Parts’ it look that 3d printing a multi-parts thing will be forbidden if not paying boing

arsdmthe wrote at 3/9/2015 2:49:48 PM:

this giant of the airplane industry is requesting a patent for ‘Three Dimensional Printing of Parts’ it look that 3d printing a multi-parts thing will be forbidden if not paying boing

Patent Myass wrote at 3/9/2015 1:26:26 PM:

This is another BS patent. It covers so many areas already in use so cannot be seen as innovative. However since the US patent system is BENT, with enough dough you can patent anything.

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