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United Kingdom The Military Technology

RAF Fighter Flies On Printed Parts 100

Posted by samzenpus
from the make-me-another dept.
Rambo Tribble writes "In what is being touted as a milestone, Royal Air Force Tornado GR4 fighter jets have flown with 3-D printed parts. The announcement came from defense company BAE Systems, and it depicts the program as a model for cost-saving. From the article: 'The parts include protective covers for cockpit radios and guards for power take-off shafts. It is hoped the technology could cut the RAF's maintenance and service bill by over £1.2m over the next four years.'"
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RAF Fighter Flies On Printed Parts

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  • by sandytaru (1158959) on Monday January 06, 2014 @02:51PM (#45880881) Journal
    ... but we're only free from the contractors if we specify that we need the CAD files for the individual components as part of the initial production contract.

    On demand part printing is very cool, but it's kind of a yawn until they fly an entirely 3D printed plane.
  • by r2kordmaa (1163933) on Monday January 06, 2014 @03:04PM (#45881013)
    "The parts include protective covers for cockpit radios and guards for power take-off shafts"

    Sorry but this is simply moronic, these are cheapest possible parts in the airplane - plastic covers for stuff. It doesnt make much of a price difference if you make 100 or 200 of such plastic parts, its the first one that costs you. Once you have made all that were needed for a batch of machines (aircraft in this case) that were actually ordered, you make a little more and store them for spare parts. The main cost here is spare parts storage - something you need to have anyway. Replacting some storage space with a very expencive 3D printer (you really thought they want to use a 300$ one? think again) makes no sense, you get lower quality parts and making them takes longer than it would take for you to get the parts from storage.

    When you get to printing turbine blades - then you are talking business, but for plastic parts.. makes no sense.

  • by similar_name (1164087) on Monday January 06, 2014 @03:27PM (#45881217)

    The main cost here is spare parts storage - something you need to have anyway. Replacting some storage space with a very expencive 3D printer (you really thought they want to use a 300$ one? think again) makes no sense, you get lower quality parts and making them takes longer than it would take for you to get the parts from storage.

    The military is considering the logistics of access to storage in a battle. It may be considerably cheaper to take a 3D printer and some material to the front than backups of all your parts. I recall reading somewhere that warships tended to carry 3 replacement parts for everything. Since you never know what's going to break you have to carry much more than necessary. A 3D printer should require much less mass and storage since you only need material for the things that actually break, instead of material for everything that might break. The costs of moving backup lenses in hundreds of styles around a battlefield may make 3D printing them more economically viable.

  • by bob_super (3391281) on Monday January 06, 2014 @03:34PM (#45881299)

    I'm curious for a good reference comparing metal strength and fatigue resistance between printed/machined/welded/forged parts.

  • by mlts (1038732) on Monday January 06, 2014 @04:00PM (#45881643)

    The parts mentioned are needed, but a cover for a cockpit radio [1] are not exactly parts facing extreme wear. If one can sinter the blades for a jet engine damaged by a bird strike, that would be a fundamental technological accomplishment, especially if the blades are balanced and could be installed.

    [1]: The black box data/voice recorder enclosure is a different story.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 06, 2014 @04:05PM (#45881691)

    "3d printers" can be additive- the ubiquitous stratasys or similar, or subtractive (Roland MDX or your dentists new toy). Point is that they are driven like a printer, rather than with cnc programming approaches, do can be used by people who aren't machinists.

The use of anthropomorphic terminology when dealing with computing systems is a symptom of professional immaturity. -- Edsger Dijkstra

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