At the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Iwakuni, southern Japan, 3D printing is now in use to keep F/A-18 Hornet multirole fighters airborne.
MCAS Iwakuni engineers have devised two products that reduce the time it takes to repair the fighter jets, saving costs for the U.S. Department of Defense. The products help with the maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) of the fighter jets, covering all tasks carried out to ensure the airworthiness of an flight vehicle.
The 3D printed products include an engine ship kit, designed by the Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 12 (MALS 12), and a plastic ring kit that helps the maintenance of the bearings on the F/A-18’s Gatling gun.
FATHOM, a Californian design studio, has used additive manufacturing to create a Modular Logistics Vehicle (MLV) for the United States Marine Corps (USMC).
Frustrated by the unresponsiveness of traditional supply chains, Marines from the 29 Palms base generated the concept of converting standard utility vehicles into customizable transport suited for a diverse range of missions.
This project was facilitated by the Launch Forth platform, as well as Deloitte, and Siemens.
A team of U.S. Marines 3D printed a part for the F-35 stealth fighter saving $70,000 in costs for a whole new landing gear door.
The component is a small part mounted on the door pressing it into the latch. It was designed and 3D printed by Marines from Combat Logistics Battalion 31 (CLB-31) in Carderock, Maryland.
Sam Pratt, a mechanical engineer at the Carderock’s Additive Manufacturing Project Office, provided further technical assistance to the team.
The U.S. Naval Air System Command (NAVAIR) is ramping up production of 3D printed parts.
System Command estimates that it will have approximately 1,000 3D printed parts approved for use across the fleet before the end of 2018. Currently only 135 3D printed parts are authorised for use.
3D printing helmets to flight-critical parts
3D printed parts will be used in a range of Naval applications, from modifications to helmets to critical parts for aircraft: NAVAIR categorizes parts depending on their air-worthiness. Parts not requiring airworthiness can be fabricated more quickly.
In 2016 NAVAIR proved that 3D printing could be used to produce safety-critical parts with the successful flight of an MV-22B Osprey, fitted with a 3D printed titanium engine nacelle link and attachment. Last spring, a 3D printed flip-top valve was added to the T-45 Goshawk breathing mask, allowing pilots in training to breathe cabin air up to a certain altitude. 300 valves were printed within a month without which training would have been impossible.
Boeing is co-operating with Swiss engineering group Oerlikon to jointly develop additive manufacturing processes in a bid to accelerate the technology’s wider employment.
Oerlikon says it signed a five-year collaboration agreement with the US airframer to create “standard materials and processes” for the production of “structural” titanium components through 3D printing.
“The research will initially focus on industrialising titanium powder bed fusion additive manufacturing and ensuring parts made with this process meet the flight requirements of the US Federal Aviation Administration and Department of Defense,” says Oerlikon.
A U.S. Marine Corps infantry battalion has become the first unit in the Corps to possess a 3D printer, using it to printing various pieces of equipment.
The U.S. Marines said the unit is the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment at Camp Lejuene, N.C., which has been testing how the system can be employed in various theoretical situations in the field.
“We’re at the tip of the iceberg as to what capabilities this can bring,” Capt. Justin Carrasco, the logistics officer for the battalion, said in a press release. “So right now, we’re identifying different 3D-printed parts that can support the warfighter in the expeditionary environment.”
With all of its accomplishments – including world’s largest defense contractor, and a presence in all 50 states and 70 countries – you might think Lockheed Martin (Bethesda, MD) would already have mastered additive manufacturing.
But like manufacturers around the world, some of Lockheed’s experts are struggling to answer questions posed by 3D printing, according to Robert Ghobrial, additive manufacturing lead for the company’s training and simulation location in Orlando, FL.
“Should we invest in the technology today or wait until it’s faster and cheaper?” Ghobrial has asked himself. “Should we have a centralized or localized printing model?”
Ghobrial spoke at SME’s “Additive Manufacturing Applications: Innovations for Growth” seminar in October, at advanced energy technology accelerator NextEnergy, in Detroit.
He traced his work with 3D printing back to 2012, when his team received some MakerBot printers that largely went unused. Even as recently as 2014, he was mostly making trinkets from the Thingiverse digital design company, Ghobrial said.
The concept of disruption and its applicability has been widely discussed over the past year. Digital technologies such as 3D print and additive manufacturing have been labelled game changers and potential disruptors, also for the maritime industry. The technologies are not widely applied in maritime yet, but more and more companies are looking into the potential changes and development opportunities of the technologies, both in terms of manufacturing, but indeed also in terms of new business models.
On 26 October Swedish Maritime Technology Forum (SMTF) and Green Ship of the Future (GSF) have invited MAN Diesel & Turbo, GKN Aerospace, Hoedtke, Alfa Laval and OSK Shiptech to discuss the potential for added value if applying 3D print and/or AM in maritime.
Over the past 6 months, GSF and 20+ maritime companies have deep-dived into the opportunity space for 3D printing in maritime, guided and inspired by 3D print and disruption experts such as DareDisrupt, but also main industry players such as General Electric, Siemens, Airbus AP works etc.
This event marks the conclusion of the project, but also the start of a new process where focus will be on practical appliance of 3D print in maritime companies and further investigation of new business.
You can learn more about the event here.
It is no secret that all branches of the United States military have been keeping a close eye on 3D printing technology. With the variety of uses across all industries, 3D printing has proven its versatility. Besides the ongoing research in a number of directions, such as 3D printing of replacement bones, battle armor, and vehicle parts, the Navy has already successfully tested ballistic missiles containing 3D printed components.
According to Business Insider, new interest is being shown in the field recently, as many patents on the original technology are expiring, thereby allowing for competition that will result in better quality products at a much lower cost. The first major patents expired in 2009 allowing new printers capable of using metal, wood, and fabric to become more available.
The US military is already investing heavily into research to print uniforms, synthetic skin and food, said ISH Technology analyst Alex Chausovsky.