3D printed metal part flown for first time on UK fighter jet
Our 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 our airfield at Warton in Lancashire.
Whilst the first 3D printed metal part took to the skies at Warton, we also have engineers designing and producing 3D printed functional components at RAF Marham 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 to the tune of more than £1.2 million over the next four years.
With some of the parts costing less than £100 per piece to manufacture, 3D printing has already resulted in savings of more than £300,000 and will offer further potential cost savings of more than £1.2 million between now and 2017.
Mike Murray, Head of Airframe Integration 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 our 3D printing machine can be viewed on YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33wIEBb9yoU.