May 31, 2017 | By Benedict

The Defence Science and Technology Group (DST Group), part of Australia’s Department of Defence, is using 3D printing to repair military aircraft. Local businesses and researchers have been involved in developing the 3D printing process.

3D printing in the military is becoming more and more commonplace. Since the turn of the year, we’ve seen the U.S. army trialling mission-specific 3D printed drones and even 3D printed grenade launchers—and those aren’t even the most serious projects out there. But while the U.S. might be furthest ahead in the military additive game, other countries are starting to join the trend too.

Australia’s DST Group, part of the country’s Department of Defence, recently revealed the work it is doing to improve aircraft repairs by adopting 3D printing techniques. Janes, an airport monitoring news agency, reports that “local industry and academia are involved in developing the [3D printing] process,” at DST Group, adding that “this engagement is expected to expand as the program progresses.”

The use of 3D printing in the aerospace sector would appear to be expanding at an even faster rate than equivalent applications in military organizations. Aerospace giants Boeing and Airbus are enrolled in something of a non-stop race to complete as many 3D printing projects as they can in as short a period as possible. Both have even flown aircraft with 3D printed fuel nozzles in their engines, with the aerospace giants trying out LEAP-1A and 1B engines from the GE-affiliated CFM International.

But while there are few secrets around commercial aircraft and their use of 3D printed parts, it seems possible that there could be just as much additive manufacturing research taking place for the benefit of military aircraft. Sometimes this information gets made public, but it makes sense for militaries to keep some cards close to their chest.

For the DST Group, some of its 3D printing research is now public knowledge. Although details are scarce on how exactly the organization is using its additive equipment on aircraft, public documents show that DST has fielded several proposals for 3D printing projects, including a plan to 3D print replicas of cracked aircraft surfaces to better understand how the cracks occur and how they can be prevented in future. Another proposal suggests that CAD software (SolidWorks is mentioned) and 3D printing could be used to create shock-absorbing components.

If reports are to be believed, those projects could be just the beginning for a widespread adoption of 3D printing within the Australian military.

For example, Russian media outlet Sputnik News says that Australia’s military 3D printing operations may be seriously far-reaching. It says that in 2016 “an army insider told local media he envisaged up to 90 percent of military equipment—naturally not including food or fuel—eventually being manufactured via 3D printing, and largely on the battlefield.”

If trends in aerospace and military manufacturing continue along the same path, it surely won’t be long before Australia’s use of 3D printing for aircraft repairs becomes the norm.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Nick Hardman wrote at 6/7/2017 6:45:04 AM:

We actually used Solidthinking, not Solidworks, for crack repairs at DSTG. I feel you should amend your article.

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