RAF’s flight of fancy takes off

DEMM Engineering & Manufacturing - - 3D TECHNOLOGY -

Tor­nado fighter jets have flown for the first time with 3D printed parts, says BAE Sys­tems.

The metal com­po­nents were used in test flights from the firm’s air­field in Lancashire, UK, dur­ing De­cem­ber 2013.

The parts in­clude pro­tec­tive cov­ers for cock­pit ra­dios and guards for power take-off shafts. The firm hopes the tech­nol­ogy could cut the RAF’s main­te­nance and ser­vice bill by more than £1.2m ($2.4m) over the next four years.

Ac­cord­ing to a BBC re­port, 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 at what­ever base you want, pro­vid­ing you can get a [3D print­ing] ma­chine there, which means you can also start to sup­port other plat­forms such as ships and air­craft car­ri­ers.”

In Septem­ber, US space agency Nasa said it is plan­ning to launch a 3D printer into space for the first time to help as­tro­nauts man­u­fac­ture spare parts and tools in zero grav­ity.

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