A component for use inside a T-44 Pegasus airplane has been 3D printed by the US Navy’s Fleet Readiness Center Southeast (FRCSE) based in Jacksonville, Florida. Capt. Chuck Stuart, FRCSE Commanding Officer, said, “This is an awesome milestone for our facility. It shows the innovative approaches our artisans and engineers incorporate to help support the U.S. military every day.”
In order to circulate air in the cockpit of a T-44 Pegasus, air duct tubing is deployed which is created by Beechcraft Corporation. This certain air duct part for the aircraft, now discontinued by Beechcraft, was first introduced into training for the military in 1964. However, the FRCSE required a replacement.
Navy Toolmaker Randy Meeker, by taking into consideration the part in situ, redesigned the duct in CAD software and 3D printed it in the industrial plastic Ultem 1085 thus providing with a part for T-44 Pegasus.
Moreover, Meeker fused the duct into one single piece instead of two. Meeker explains, “There is a lot of responsibility on the engineer for these parts that are actually used in aircraft. It’s a whole new world of technology, and it’s their responsibility to make sure it can be used safely. That’s why this particular project was a good first candidate because it’s not a flight-critical part, but it’s a step forward in incorporating 3D-printed parts into aircraft.”
Deutsche Bahn, German rail company, are also gauging the logistics of 3D printing for vehicle components. Deutsche Bahn will not only create a digital inventory of existing parts for their trains, but it will also work in partnership with Arizona’s Local Motors to build a 3D printed autonomous vehicle called ‘Olli’.
The basis of this is to swap enormous warehouses full of parts with digital file counterparts. This does not only save space, but also produces much more flexibility when it comes to part development and production.
Disruption of supply chain logistics by 3D printing is still at an early stage. However, a huge amount of companies are looking towards additive manufacturing as a feasible solution. In addition to this, domestic appliance manufacturer Electrolux declared collaboration with Spare Parts 3D this week and file sharing platforms already offer ‘freely accessible library’s of functional 3D printing files for this purpose’.
As mentioned before, the Navy Fleet Readiness Center East in Cherry Point, North Carolina, has also invested in additive manufacturing through collaboration with Thermwood CNC routers. The Fleet Readiness Center East aims to use ‘Thermwood’s Large Scale Additive Manufacturing (LSAM) machines’ to manufacture aircraft parts over an initial course of two years, beginning in 2017.
Furthermore, an M2 Cusing machine from German additive manufacturing company ‘Concept Laser’ has also been attained by the US Naval Research Laboratory in Washington D.C.