RPT-FEATURE-Flush with orders, aerospace industry retools for future
* Boeing increased 737 production rates 60 percent
* Airbus has cut plane assembly time 30 percent
* GE testing 3-D printers to make better engine parts, faster
By Alwyn Scott
PARIS, June 18 (Reuters) - As airplane makers gathered outside Paris to show off their newest high-tech jetliners on Monday, a less-heralded technology story was unfolding back home on the factory floors of the world's leading aerospace firms.
The planned introduction of at least half a dozen new plane designs that push the boundaries of flight performance has given the industry its biggest opportunity in a decade or more to automate factories, add new techniques and reduce costs.
In five years, airplanes entering service may have an engine with parts delicately fabricated by an industrial 3-D printer, a paint job applied by a robot and rivets installed by machines.
"The big next leaps will come on the production side - how do we actually produce these airplanes faster, more efficiently, with more automation?" Ray Conner, CEO of Boeing's commercial airplane division, asked at the Paris Air Show on Monday. Continued...