Moog Inc. Blends 3-D Printing and Blockchain to Provide Aircraft Parts
Aircraft-component maker Moog Inc., an Aircraft-component maker, is experimenting with a blend of blockchain and 3-D printing to pace up the replacement of defective aircraft parts to a few hours from several days.
The aircraft-parts market is massively regulated, with sales requiring certification from the ‘Federal Aviation Administration’ and other agencies.
The East Aurora, N.Y., company intends to illustrate that putting together the two emerging technologies: the distributed ledger behind cryptocurrencies and also the building of parts on-demand from digital blueprints could promote a new type of digital marketplace for airplane parts.
“The plan is that I’m going to stock those parts digitally and transform them into physical goods when I require them,” said George Small, Moog’s CTO. “It is, after all, just trying to recognize what all the incapability is in the current supply chains and then provide opportunities for improvement,” he added.
Using blockchain reduces paperwork, allowing a buyer to locate a part and purchase it immediately.
“I need something that substitutes the paper trail, but in a way that supports this digital model and being able to print parts on-demand,” Mr. Small said.
Moog has about 13,000 employees and revenue of $2.9 billion in the year ended in September. It tested the combination of blockchain and 3-D printing first this year, enabling an airline to place an order of a part for a plane while it was in the air and have the part installed once it landed.
In the test, ‘Air New Zealand Ltd.’ used Moog’s blockchain system, ‘VeriPart,’ to obtain a substituted protective part for an in-seat screen for a ‘Boeing 777-300’ as it was en route from Auckland to Los Angeles. Using the blockchain method, a maintenance team in New Zealand ordered a digital file comprising the part design from ‘Singapore Technologies Engineering Ltd.’
The order was confirmed on Moog’s blockchain system, received on Microsoft Corp.’s Azure cloud. The part was printed on a Moog 3-D printer in Los Angeles, shipped to the airport, and installed in the plane.
Companies over industries have examined blockchain’s potential to verify transactions and streamline processes across large networks linking various partners.
Michael Shanler, vice president and analyst at Gartner Inc., said businesses are adopting 3-D printing to make airline parts, but correlating the technology to the blockchain is a comparatively new concept.
Within the airline-parts market, blockchain could not only administer a digital ledger of transactions and trusted manufacturers but also host information on the material used for aircraft parts, such as specific plastics or metals, so that the order could be redirected to a compatible 3-D printer.
Honeywell International Inc. has introduced a blockchain-based online marketplace that lets international patrons and sellers trade used aerospace components in real-time. General Electric Co. is using Microsoft’s Azure blockchain technologies to render updated data on parts.
But there are hurdles in building decentralized digital marketplaces for aircraft parts.
“Moving to some uncomplicated international structure—there’s a lot of independent systems and regulators that have to come on board,” Mr. Engel said.
Mr. Small said that for now, Moog is traversing the combination of 3-D printing and blockchain. An industrywide model could evolve, he added.