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Thread: 3D printing to make older aircraft cheaper to maintain?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2010

    3D printing to make older aircraft cheaper to maintain?

    A common argument I hear for buying new aircraft is that it's so expensive to keep old aircraft going, because of a shortage of spare parts.

    However I've been thinking about how 3D printing technology could change this, as an Air Force can print any part almost overnight for cheaper than it cost to make the original. The USAF is already experimenting with this:

    This would mean that it can become very efficient to buy an older aircraft (like $13k for an F-5), upgrade it with off the shelf equipment and then use 3D printing to build the parts needed to keep it flying.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2000
    Los Angeles
    3D printing would only work if it provided a part with the same strength and weight as the original. Weight and balance is critical to stability in airplanes.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    3D printing would only work if it provided a part with the same strength and weight as the original. Weight and balance is critical to stability in airplanes.
    Yes, i think people generaly do not understand what application 3D printing is limited to at present time.
    You can't just mold a similar hardware that is special allue, high grade steel bar, or Titanium part out from a 3D printer.

    What a 3D printer can do is create the first part of hardware as a base mold, and then ship it to the metallurgy industry for prod line.
    For all the rather rare metals used in space and Aviation industry, the 3D printer still has a long way to go in terms of material it can prossess.

    I'm not sure you can mold(3D print) a piece of Titanium or high grade steel down to 1/100 or 1/1000mm that is sometime required when applied on jets and Space industry.
    Last edited by haavarla; 10th May 2017 at 15:23.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Only limited use would be get a mold for these air forces that have not access to the original production line and blueprint(see Iran) and build one by one when need arise, but you would still need high grade materials.
    You can reuse the scrapped pieces and mold it again if is metallic but in case of composite/ceramics let's forget about it.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2010

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Some components just need to forged (it aligns the grains don't you know)

    I remember when CNC machined bicycle components were all the rage and my mates went through loads of pretty bright blue or pink anodised aluminium machined components when a single dull old drop-forged steel one would have lasted if not forever then certainly the lifetime of the bike (maybe even the owner)

    I'm willing to guess that the loads (static and dynamic) applied to warplane components will be several orders of magnitude larger
    Rule zero: don't be on fire

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    "Where the fruit is"
    Quote Originally Posted by Sanem View Post

    Composite 3D printing

    3D printing an engine
    CBAM can be described as almost a form of laminated object manufacturing, in which sheets of material are bound together and a three-dimensional object is cut from the stacked sheets. How it does this and what it can achieve, however, are entirely unique.
    It's not going to be cheap

    Think also that few older gen aircraft are CAD modeled. The real cost curve start here.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    3D printing would only work if it provided a part with the same strength and weight as the original. Weight and balance is critical to stability in airplanes.
    but but, all the China stronk guys in the PLAAF thread be like "our new aircrafts use the latest technology like 3d printing, super aesa, drones, reusable rockets" etc and whatever buzz words are out there.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    SAAB/Boeing announced that their T-X will use 3D printing

    “It is a production jet at this stage,” averred Darryl Davis, president of Boeing’s Phantom Works, standing in front of a second jet already being subjected to structural proof tests. The two companies are building a plane with very little touch labor and are using advanced adhesives, 3-D printing (additive manufacturing to the faithful) and other techniques to “break the cost curve,” Davis told reporters after the unveiling this morning. Bending the cost curve is, of course, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James’ effort to rein in development and procurement costs.

    and the 777X

    Boeing 777xBoeing describes its new 777X as “the largest and most efficient twin-engine jet in the world.” An essential part of the jet’s design is its composite wings, which are more slender and aerodynamic than previous versions. The wings will be built in a new wing facility in Everett, Washington next summer, by 30-foot tall robots that were specifically designed for this purpose. The robots, which are basically gigantic 3D printers worth tens of millions of dollars, will precisely place layers of carbon fiber strips on top of each other to bring Boeing’s unique contoured wing design to the real world. The robots that make the manufacturing technique so special were designed and built by engineering firm Electroimpact.

    To make the wings, machine heads that weigh as much as 1.7 tons will deposit carbon fiber strips infused with epoxy resin. Throughout the process, an integrated self-inspection system will warn engineers if anything goes wrong. Electroimpact project manager Todd Rudberg told the Seattle Times that his team’s machines are faster, larger, and more precise than similar composite manufacturing technology.

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    Last edited by APRichelieu; 10th May 2017 at 05:14.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2010

    The advent of 3D printing may make it even easier for current operators to keep their Fishbeds in service, as they can produce spares and upgrades in country.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Columbia, MD
    It will be interesting to see how quickly this discussion evolves to 3D printed air to air UCAV's that are better than F-22 for $10 Million a pop.
    Old radar types never die; they just phased array

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