July 7, 2014

3D printers could be incorporated in military and civil aircraft of 2040 or even earlier to create small unmanned aircraft during a mission, British defence company BAE Systems claim.

Experts at BAE Systems' Research and Development team at Warton are offering an unique insight into some 'drawing board' technologies that would normally be kept well under wraps. The team works with the UK's leading aviation thinkers from universities, Government and a whole range of companies to predict and explore how aircraft engineering might evolve.

Future aircraft should be able to heal themselves in flight, says BAE Systems. One crucial technology is the ability of printing metals, alloys and other lightweight materials in mid-air. a Tornado fighter jet fitted with metal components created on a 3D printer undertook a successful test flight at BAE's airfield in northwest England late December last year. But now Engineers from BAE says the future concept is to have a 3D printer installed aboard an aircraft which would allow printing full-scale drones during a mission.

Smaller unmanned aircraft, or UAVs, are created by super high-tech on-board 3D printers, via Additive Layer Manufacturing and robotic assembly techniques. The 3D printers respond to data fed to them by a remote control room where a human commander decides what should be produced.

"You are suddenly not fixed in terms of where you have to manufacture these things," said BAE's Mike Murray. "You can manufacture the products and whatever base you want, providing you can get a machine there, which means you can also start to support other platforms such as ships and aircraft carriers."

The UAVs are best suited to each scenario -- be it a group of wide-winged aircraft for protracted or enduring surveillance -- or rotary-winged UAVs to rescue single civilians or soldiers from dangerous situations. After use the UAVs could render themselves useless through dissolving circuit boards or they might safely land in a recoverable position if re-use was required.

This creates the ultimate adaptable taskforce, with a lead aircraft able to enter any unknown scenario and quickly manufacture an effective toolset for any task.

Based on their thinking, BAE has released a concept video which can be seen below:

BAE Systems also showed off an amazing "Transformer" type of aircraft which comprises a number of smaller military jets mid-air for more efficient travel. The concept can be tailor-made to suit any scenario.

For longer journeys, smaller sub-aircraft can be combined together during travel, to increase the range of the jet and save fuel through reducing 'drag'. When needed, however, the craft can then split off and take on a number of activities including offensive missions, dropping supplies or carrying out surveillance.

It is unclear that if these new concepts will finally reach the battlefield or be used in any non-military applications. But BAE Systems seems quite confident about it - BAE has invested £117 million across all of its research and development work in 2013.

Nick Colosimo, a Futurist and Engineering Manager within the R&D team said: "Of course we don't know exactly what sorts of aircraft technologies will be used in 2040 with any certainty, but it's great to be able to show the public some concepts that might be possible through projecting where today's technology could get to. BAE Systems has a rich heritage in research and development, and our team builds on literally decades of previous R&D work by thousands of scientists and engineers."

 

Posted in 3D Printing Applications

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negativ one wrote at 8/8/2014 10:59:45 AM:

If we still need military in +40 years, then Fu*k the mankind.

lassi wrote at 7/9/2014 5:01:55 AM:

this article is like listening to drunkards in a cafe. printing while on mission will make no sense in 40+ years. better use of the space is to just put both parts there and the chips for the electronics and motors would be pre-made anyhow.



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