CORRECTED-FEATURE-Flush with orders, aerospace industry retools

Wed Jun 19, 2013 12:34pm EDT
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(Corrects 13th paragraph to say Pratt & Whitney is using printing technology; original version said P&W was not using the technology)

* 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 companies.

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...