Jan.5, 2014

UK fighter jets have flown for the first time with parts made using 3D printing technology.

Defence company BAE Systems said on Sunday that a Tornado fighter jet fitted with metal components created on a 3D printer undertook a successful test flight at the defence firm's airfield at Warton, Lancashire, northwest England late last month.

The plane was equipped with a 3D-printed protective cover for the cockpit radio, a protective guard in the landing gear and support struts on the air intake door, the British firm said.

In recent years aerospace companies have been seeking cheaper and quicker ways to manufacture engineering parts. The company said its engineers are using 3D printing technology to design and produce parts which could cut the Royal Air Force's maintenance and service bill by over £1.2 million over the next four years.

"You are suddenly not fixed in terms of where you have to manufacture these things," said Mike Murray, Head of Airframe Integration at BAE Systems. "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.

"And if it's feasible to get machines out on the front line, it also gives improved capability where we wouldn't traditionally have any manufacturing support."

Last year researchers from BAE Systems have also produced one of the largest 3D printed metal parts, a 1.2m titanium wingspar, using a specific kind of 3D printing known as the Wire and Arc Additive Manufacture (WAAM) process.

BAE Systems is working at RAF Marham, Norfolk to engineer ready-made parts for four squadrons of Tornado GR4 aircraft, including 3D-printed protective covers and guards. BAE said some of the parts cost less than £100 ($165, €120) to manufacture, and had the potential to save hundreds of thousands of pounds every year.


Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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