In the last 12 months the aerospace industry has shown a growing interest in 3D printing. While GE seems to have taken the lead in integrating the technology into its production cycle, another large manufacturer has decided to follow suit.
According to BAE systems, a Royal Air Force (RAF) Tornado recently took to the air equipped with functional 3D printed parts. While BAE is being coy about what type of 3D printed parts may be aboard the Marham-based craft, the company’s Combat Engineering team is currently developing support strutsand other cockpit gear using the 3D printing technology.
Aside from just a proof of concept program, BAE sees real potential in additive manufacturing. “[With AM] 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” say Mike Murray, Head of Airframe Integration.
Beyond improving manufacturing logistics, 3D printing is also producing sizable savings for aerospace consumers. According to BAE, some of the parts that they’re printing cost less than £100. Overall, the aerospace giant says it projects that replacement parts will cost some £1.2M less between now and 2017.
With more aerospace companies adopting advanced 3D printed metal technologies, it appears that the next decade will be a successful one for additive manufacturing. Additionally, I wouldn’t be surprised to see large fuselage components and even advanced wing designs printed in the future, although it will likely be many years out.
Image Courtesy of BAE Systems
Video Reference: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33wIEBb9yoU