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AMS Spring 2023

3D Printing Supersonic Jet Factory to Be Opened by Boom in NC

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Transportation startup Boom Supersonic has announced that it will be opening a “superfactory” for its Overture supersonic jet at Piedmont Triad International Airport in Greensboro, North Carolina. The company is known for its use of 3D printing, including fused deposition modeling (FDM) machines from Stratasys and metal 3D printers from VELO3D. As it embarks on develops its full-sized supersonic jet, the Overture, 3D printing will surely continue to play a role.

In 2020, Boom unveiled its demonstrator aircraft, the XB-1, which featured 21 3D printed parts. At 71 feet long, the jet was just one-third of the size of the Overture. While the XB-1 is said to be taking its first fly sometime this year, Boom aims to roll out the first full-sized Overture plane in 2025, with flight tests beginning in 2025. To maintain this schedule, the startup will break ground on the new 400,000-square-foot facility this year.

If it can deliver on its promises, Boom will be selling 15 Overture jets to United Airlines, who has an option to buy 35 more aircraft. By 2030, the company suggests “The Overture Superfactory” could employ around 1,750 workers. By 2032, Boom President Kathy Savitt said this number would shoot up to 2,400 people.

“Boom Supersonic, the company that’s building the next generation of cleaner, faster passenger jets, will build them right here, at the Piedmont Triad Airport, creating 1,761 new, good-paying jobs,” said North Carolina Governor Cooper at the Boom media event.

Not everyone buys what the startup is selling, however. The Air Current Editor in Chief, Jon Ostrower, claimed on an episode of 60 Minutes that a stated deal between Boom Supersonic and Rolls-Royce may never materialize. Ostrower wrote on Twitter: “In sticking with its 2025 first flight plan, without a launched engine by Rolls-Royce, Boom is making claims about its schedule that it simply can’t keep. The first GTF to test was done 3 years before flying on C Series. Actual hardware needs to be going to test now. It’s not.” He additionally noted: “Rolls-Royce hasn’t made a commitment [sic] for an engine and one would need to be deep in development with a significant engineering team right now to make [a first flight by] 2026.”

Savitt additionally claims that its aircraft will all be “powered by sustainable aviation fuels, meeting our 100-percent, net-zero-carbon goals.” As I noted in a previous article, this strategy may also be problematic. This is not only because supersonic jets may require up to five times more fuel per passenger than a standard jet, but that its partner,  Prometheus Fuels, is still a long way from developing its so-called clean fuel made from extracting CO2 from air and hydrogen from water.

Despite these issues, Boom Supersonic has powerful backers, including the U.S. Air Force, which will be investing up to $60 million into the development of the Overture over the course of three years. If the plane takes off, this could be a major boom for North Carolina, which recently saw Toyota ink a deal to construct a $1.29 billion battery plant in the state.

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