Swedish aerospace giant Saab has test-flown a 3D-printed replacement fuselage part on its advanced Gripen D fighter jet.
The experiment has demonstrated the potential application of 3D printing to repair a damaged part of a combat aircraft that is still deployed at a forward operating base, Flight Global reported.
3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is the process of constructing three-dimensional solid objects from a digital file.
It involves additive processes, under which the desired object is created by laying down successive layers of material till the time the product is finished.
While in the recent past, companies have made use of 3D printing to produce products like self-driving cars, and swiftly-made shelters for military use, the development of the technology to construct parts and aircraft is another sphere that companies across the world are now exploring.
We have successfully conducted a flight with a 3D-printed exterior hatch on a Gripen to test how the technology could be used in battlefield damage repair. #additivemanufacturing #avgeeks #aviation pic.twitter.com/HOFrws9wxw
— Saab AB (@Saab) March 30, 2021
Under the operation to integrate the 3D part with the Gripen fighter jet, a replacement access hatch was fitted on the fighter’s aft fuselage.
According to reports, the part was produced for demonstration purposes after performing a scan of the original component.
It was constructed from a nylon polymer resin with the help of additive layer manufacturing (ALM) techniques.
“Post-flight testing of the hatch showed that no structural changes had occurred. The component passed its first test with flying colors,” said Saab.
The part was produced by the Swedish AMEXCI consortium, which will now carry out further analysis of the part, with the results set to help inform decisions around additional future testing.
According to a portal 3DGENCE, it is expected that 75% of new commercial and military aircraft will contain 3D printed parts by the current year. This would reduce the weight of the aircraft by one kilogram and even cut down its carbon dioxide production by 25 tons throughout the aircraft’s lifetime, it claims.
Aircraft manufacturers are looking for lighter and more durable materials, and 3D printing is seen as the best option for it.
Global aerospace giants like Airbus and Boeing are already experimenting with the latest technology to improve their products.
According to reports, Airbus had started tests on titanium components made with this technology in 2014.