3D printed parts fly for first time in UK fighter jets

SP's MAI - - AEROSPACE -

BAE Sys­tems has re­vealed that 3D printed com­po­nents cre­ated by its en­gi­neers have flown for the first time on-board Tor­nado fighter jets, paving the way for us­ing 3D printed parts in other mil­i­tary kit. The 3D metal parts were suc­cess­fully flown from the com­pany’s air­field at War­ton in Lan­cashire.

En­gi­neers are de­sign­ing and pro­duc­ing 3D printed func­tional com­po­nents at the Royal Air Force (RAF) Marham, which will cut the cost of re­pairs, main­te­nance and ser­vice to the RAF to the tune of more than £1.2 mil­lion over the next four years.

The com­pany’s Com­bat En­gi­neer­ing team is us­ing 3D print­ing to en­gi­neer ready-made parts for sup­ply to four squadrons of Tor­nado GR4 air­craft – in­clud­ing pro­tec­tive cov­ers for Tor­nado cock­pit ra­dios, sup­port struts on the air in­take door and pro­tec­tive guards for power take-off shafts.

With some of the parts cost­ing less than £100 per piece to man­u­fac­ture, 3D print­ing has al­ready re­sulted in sav­ings of more than £3,00,000 and will of­fer fur­ther po­ten­tial cost sav­ings of more than £1.2 mil­lion be­tween now and 2017.

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

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