BAE Systems engineers have created and flown a 3D printed metal part for the first time on-board a Tornado fighter jet, paving the way for using 3D printed parts in other military kit.
The 3D metal camera bracket was successfully flown from the company’s airfield at Warton, Lancashire, UK.
While the first 3D printed metal part took to the skies at Warton, BAE Systems also has engineers designing and producing 3D printed functional components at RAF Marham, Norfolk, UK, to support the aircraft when it is being maintained on the ground. The parts are made from a plastic material and include protective covers for Tornado cockpit radios, support struts on the air intake door, and protective guards for power take-off shafts. Use of these parts will cut the cost of repairs, maintenance, and service to the Royal Air Force by more than £1.2 million ($1.98 million) over the next 4 years, according to BAE Systems estimates.
With some of the parts costing less than £100 ($165) per piece to manufacture, 3D printing has already resulted in savings of more than £300,000 ($494,160) and will offer further potential cost savings of more than £1.2 million ($1.98 million) between now and 2017.
Mike Murray, head of airframe integration for BAE Systems at Warton 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.”
A film of of BAE system's 3D printing machine can be viewed on YouTube here.
Source: BAE Systems