Additive manufacturing, better known as 3D printing, will play a major role in construction of Boeing’s new Starliner space taxis under development with U.S. space agency NASA.

Boeing says that it has contracted with Oxford Performance Materials (OPM) to supply some 600 3D-printed parts for the manned, commercial spacecraft.

Structural component additively manufactured by OPM for the Boeing CST-100 Starliner. Credit: OPMStructural component additively manufactured by OPM for the Boeing CST-100 Starliner. Credit: OPMThe CST-100 Starliner is under development in collaboration with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. It is designed to transport up to seven passengers, or a mix of crew and cargo, to low-Earth orbit destinations such as the International Space Station.

The spacecraft features a weldless structure and is designed to touch down on land, making it reusable up to 10 times with a six-month turnaround time. (Watch a video.)

OPM’s 3D-printed composite parts will help Boeing lower costs and save weight on each seven-seat capsule when compared with traditional metal and plastic manufacturing.

“From our earliest discussions with Boeing, they stressed the need to see significant reductions in weight, cost and lead times in order to consider replacing traditional metallic and composite parts with a new technology for their space program,” says Lawrence Varholak, president of OPM’s Aerospace & Industrial unit. The division supplies 3D printed OXFAB production parts for aerospace, satellite, and defense applications.

OPM has developed a range of high performance additive manufacturing, or HPAM, processes using its own formulations of PEKK (Poly-Ether-Ketone-Ketone) polymers.

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