The Boeing 787 Dreamliner has been boom and bust for fastener suppliers. When production of the aircraft first began, a shortage of fasteners slowed the assembly lines. Now, there’s a glut of fasteners in the supply chain. “We probably haven’t seen an order for a fastener on a 787 or a (Airbus) A380 for the better part of two years,” says Bill Christopher, the executive vice president of Alcoa. Distributors bought a large supply of fasteners for the aircraft-essentially on speculation-before the economy nosedived and the 787 encountered design and production problems. It’s now more than three years late but the first delivery is now expected later this year. The A380 also experienced delays. Christopher told analysts in New York last month that he expects normal fastener demand for the aircraft to resume later this year as well. Fasteners are close to a billion dollar business ($868 million in 2010) at Alcoa.
An in-depth survey of 700 current and future users of 3D printing holds few surprises, but results emphasize some major trends already in progress. Two standouts are the big growth in end-use parts and metal additive manufacturing (AM) most respondents expect.
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