Collins Aerospace in Iowa expands its 3D printing capabilities with a $14 million investment.

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Collins Aerospace, a subsidiary of RTX (NYSE: RTX), formerly Raytheon, has made a significant investment in expanding its additive manufacturing (AM) center in West Des Moines, Iowa. The company celebrated the completion of the construction with a ribbon cutting ceremony on July 20, 2023, announcing that the upgraded facility now covers 9,000 square feet. This expansion showcases the company’s ongoing dedication to improving its AM capabilities. The advanced metal 3D printers installed in the facility mark a new era in production methods for engine components in both commercial and military aircraft. With the addition of cutting-edge 3D metal printers, including the powerful NXG XII 600 from SLM Solutions, the door opens for further advancements in manufacturing land-based turbine components.

Renee Begley, the site lead for Collins Aerospace in West Des Moines, emphasized the pivotal role of AM in the future of the aerospace and defense sectors. Begley said, “Additive manufacturing has the potential to help us reduce weight, complexity, lead time, and cost in the parts we supply, and this expansion represents an investment in our business to help deliver those benefits to our customers.”

Collins Aerospace recently achieved certification from the National Aerospace and Defense Contractors Accreditation Program (NADCAP) for AM. This prestigious certification places the company in an elite group of only eight facilities in the United States that hold this accreditation, underscoring their commitment to maintaining high standards in the 3D printing field.

The expansion in West Des Moines received praise from Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, who acknowledged Collins Aerospace’s dedication to the state. Reynolds remarked, “Today’s expansion in West Des Moines is a testament to the commitment Collins Aerospace has made to our state, and we’re equally committed to providing the strong economic environment that will fuel its innovation here for decades more to come.”

Collins Aerospace has been aggressively developing its AM capabilities on a global scale. In addition to the West Des Moines facility, the company operates additive production centers in Iowa, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Singapore, with a research center in Connecticut providing further support. Collaborations with industry leaders such as Morf3D, Sintavia, and PrintSky, a joint venture between French aerospace company Sogeclair and AddUp, have solidified Collins Aerospace’s position as a key participant in the AM industry.

The expansion of Collins Aerospace’s 3D printing capabilities occurs amidst intense competition within the aerospace sector, particularly between giants like Boeing and RTX. In a lawsuit filed in January 2023, Boeing accused Collins Aerospace subsidiaries of supplying faulty parts for its F/A-18 and F-15 fighter jets, resulting in substantial costs at its St. Louis County factory. This legal battle is reflective of the escalating competition in the aerospace industry, which is further exacerbated by geopolitical tensions, such as those between the United States and China.

In response to arms sales to Taiwan, the Chinese government imposed sanctions on RTX and Lockheed Martin, including export and import bans, as well as travel and work restrictions for senior executives. These developments highlight the pressing need for tighter supply chains in the face of intensifying conflicts between military giants. Not only does Boeing rely on the expedience of AM for parts, but Collins also has a responsibility to ensure the quality of its supplies. The NADCAP certification becomes even more critical in this regard.

By staying updated on the latest news from the 3D printing industry, individuals can gain valuable insights and receive information and offers from third-party vendors. The dynamic landscape of additive manufacturing continues to shape the aerospace and defense sectors, and Collins Aerospace’s investment in its West Des Moines facility signals its commitment to remaining at the forefront of this evolving technology.

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