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Boeing space taxis to use hundreds of 3D-printed parts

The CST-100 Starliner space crew capsules will be made with more than 600 3D-printed parts, Reuters reports.

A mockup of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner.

Phelan M. Ebenhack, The Washington Post/Getty Images

Boeing plans to use more than 600 3D-printed parts on its CST-100 Starliner space taxis, according to a report from Reuters.

Oxford Performance Materials created the parts with strategic investment support from Hexcel totaling $25 million. Boeing currently has a $4.2 billion contract with NASA to build three Starliner taxis and Oxford's fire-and-radiation-resistant PEKK plastic is supposed to help reduce building costs, Reuters said.

The Starliner is a crew capsule designed for NASA's Commercial Crew Development program, an effort to broaden space travel beyond the confines of government-led missions. The private sector has been front and center in recent months in rocket launches and test flights by the likes of Elon Musk's SpaceX, Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin and Richard Branson's space tourism-minded Virgin Galactic.

SpaceX is also building a capsule for NASA under a $2.6 billion contract.

A Boeing representative told me the company has relied on 3D printing since 2003 and is currently using 50,000 parts made through additive manufacturing. She added that Oxford's 3D-printed parts will be used on the "air revitalization system, interior closeouts and support structures" on Boeing's three Starliner space taxis, which are scheduled to start test flights in 2018.

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