RAF’s flight of fancy takes off
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.