3D printing applied to MRO of F/A-18 Hornet by U.S. Marines

A pilot looks out of the canopy of his F/A-18F Super Hornet aircraft. U.S. Navy photo by Cmdr. Ian C. Anderson

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. 

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New 3D printing service for Oil and Gas

A new additive manufacturing service aims to transform how parts are created and optimized, reducing supply chain risk, decreasing costs and boosting efficiencies for sectors such as oil and gas.

(Photo: Advisian)

Advisian Digital, the data science, software and technology business of the WorleyParsons Group, and Aurora Labs, the industrial 3D printing (3DP) technology company, have teamed up to launch an end-to-end additive manufacturing (3DP) service called AdditiveNow. The joint venture offers a range of 3D printing capabilities including advisory, design and short-run agile manufacturing.

John Bolto, specialist adviser, at Advisian Digital said, “The successes of early adopters, coupled with the 3DP expertise and resources now becoming available, offers resource businesses a huge opportunity to revolutionize their operations.

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3D printing technology shakes up parts production for automakers, suppliers

Automakers and suppliers are on the cusp of revolutionary change through their growing use of 3D printing, a technology that can make custom parts on demand and has the potential to mass-produce parts.

Once the technology achieves critical mass, industry analysts say, 3D printing also could affect fixed operations at dealerships.

Many automakers now use 3D printing to make prototype parts for vehicle development, as well as tools and assembly aids for manufacturing operations. Several car companies are looking into making production parts with 3D printers in the next five years. Some automakers currently produce handfuls of small replacement parts, typically interior trim pieces.

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Siemens Mobility is 3D printing spare parts at first digital rail maintenance centre

“The ability to 3D print customised tools and spare parts whenever we need them, with no minimum quantity, has transformed our supply chain.”

Siemens Mobility GmbH, part of Siemens AG, has opened its first digital rail maintenance centre, eliminating the need for inventory of selected spare parts.

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The Siemens Mobility RRX Rail Service Center located in Dortmund-Eving, Germany, houses a Stratasys Fortus 450mc Production 3D printer which is being used produce replacement parts and tooling on-demand. Siemens Mobility has reduced the manufacturing time of select parts by up to 95%.

The RRX Rail Service Center is expecting around a hundred trains to enter the depot every month. Michael Kuczmik, Head of Additive Manufacturing, Siemens Mobility GmbH, Customer Service says 3D printing will play an integral role in optimising “spare parts for longer life cycles, at reduced cost and in shorter timeframes than ever before.”

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Boeing invests in 3D-printed parts in wake of supplier shortfalls

Boeing has pledged to deliver 800 airliners this year, more than ever before, but a main hiccup causing delays is supplier shortfalls. 

New technology from startup companies like Digital Alloys could give Boeing more control over its supply chain. Boeing spokesperson Vienna Catalani told Supply Chain Dive the company is not yet certain how and if it will integrate Digital Alloys’ specific technology, but whether used internally at Boeing or in the hands of suppliers, 3D printers can produce metal parts faster and cheaper than traditional methods.

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3D printing method builds, repairs aircraft parts

174218_web2A team of researchers at RMIT University (Melbourne, Australia) is using laser metal deposition technology (a 3D printing technique) to build and repair defense aircraft parts in a two-year collaboration with RUAG Australia (Bayswater, Australia) and the Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC; Carlton, Australia).

Laser metal deposition technology feeds metal powder into a laser beam, which when scanned across a surface adds new material in a precise, web-like formation. The metallurgical bond created has mechanical properties similar, or in some cases superior, to those of the original material. “It’s basically a very high-tech welding process where we make or rebuild metal parts layer by layer,” explains Professor Milan Brandt, who is leading the work. He says the concept is proven and prospects for its successful development are extremely positive.

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3D printing replacement parts for a nuclear warhead

The W80 nuclear warhead is a small American thermonuclear warhead designed for deployment on cruise missiles. A program has been implemented to extend the life of the warhead, called the W80-4 LEP, or life extension program. Recently the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) gave passing grades to the plans to refurbish certain components as well as to the proposed approach to developing component cost estimates.

The warhead, once refurbished, will be paired with a new cruise missile that is being developed by the US Air Force. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) is the lead nuclear design agency and is working with Sandia National Laboratories, the lead non-nuclear design agency. The work being done on the warhead is to satisfy military requirements to pair the warhead with the new delivery system and improve the weapon’s safety, security and operational logistics, as well as to maintain effectiveness without the need for additional explosive tests. The first production of the W80-4 is scheduled for 2025.

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How 3D printing is shaping the future of aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul

A380 inside hangarAs a somewhat nerdy by-product of working in an industry that looks at manufacturing the world differently, I too find myself often viewing the world through an additive lens. Perhaps the place I do this most is when traveling on an airplane where I tend to scour the cabin for places where additive manufacturing (AM) could be present someday soon.

The lifespan of an aircraft, typically between 20 and 30 years, makes maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) and retrofit, both big and necessary businesses. Think of every plane you’ve been on in the last few years that still featured a now-defunct charging socket from the 1980s – aircraft are not changing overnight to keep up-to-date with consumer expectations. However, Airbus’ Global Market Forecast projects that over the next 20 years the commercial aircraft upgrades services market will be worth 180 billion USD.

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German army uses 3D printers to produce spare parts in operations

3D printers at the rescue in operations

Sometimes, an urgently needed spare part is not available aboard and it would be both too expensive and too time-consuming to send an aircraft fly to a base where it could be obtained via the logistical supply chain. This is why 3D printers have been installed in US aircraft carriers. And these are able to print impressively large objects in a wide variety of appropriate materials.

The same technique is spreading among the ground forces in some large-scale operations. It is the case for the NATO-led Resolute Support operation in Afghanistan. The foundations for the use of this technology have been laid in Mazar-e Sharif in what is commonly called the “maintenance mile”. By means of 3D printing, individual requirements from the soldiers on operations can be fulfilled more quickly.

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Audi harnesses SLM Solutions metal 3D printing for spare parts and prototypes

Audi SLM SolutionsSLM Solutions has revealed automotive giant, Audi has been using its selective laser melting process to produce prototypes and manufacture rarely-requested spare parts.

The German company has sought to adopt SLM’s metal 3D printing technology to target a number of automotive applications. Typically, it is the smaller, more complex, and less cost-sensitive components, like the water adapters for the Audi W12 engine, which are produced on-demand by Audi with an SLM 280 machine, that are most suitable to be additively manufactured.

Audi has been utilising metal additive manufacturing for special application areas, able to manufacture sizable components on the 280 x 280 x 365 mm3 build space. Thanks to the machines’ powerful 700W lasers build times are reduced, enhancing productivity while maintaining quality. It is enabling Audi to manufacture on-demand, supplying spare parts as and when they are needed, rather than producing them in advance and putting them into storage. Simplifying logistics and warehousing, implementing an on-demand production approach brings both economical and sustainability benefits, in addition to the rapid prototyping and greater creative freedom 3D printing technology is renowned for.

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