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Application of 3D printed aircraft components in US Air Force maintenance

2023-12-19 15:58

The Travis Air Force Base in California, USA recently designed a 3D printed floor panel for the C-17 Globemaster III, making significant progress in aircraft maintenance. This panel replaces an outdated component and highlights the practical application of 3D printing in aerospace engineering. This project was led by Sergeant Evan LeClair of the US Air Force's 860th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, in collaboration with the Aircraft Metal Technology team of the 60th Maintenance Squadron.
Sergeant Marsh Tighe from the 60th Squadron emphasized the challenge of integrating 3D printed components into the C-17, a task previously completed on the C-5 aircraft. This process requires the involvement of numerous engineers and collaboration with different organizations, including the C-17 Systems Project Office, Advanced Manufacturing Project Office, Boeing, and the C-17 Weapon System Administrator of the Air Mobility Command.
This achievement is not only a technological milestone, but also a strategic development in the field of aircraft maintenance. It proves the feasibility of using additive manufacturing to extend the lifespan of aircraft. The polymer component manufacturing capability of the Metal Technology Department at Travis Air Force Base has been recognized, as it can reverse engineer the production of unusable components to address the weak links in the original components.

The metal technology department of the 60th MXS aircraft has been designated as the Air Force's centralized manufacturing center, which has the potential to further promote the development of manufacturing technology and provide broader support to the Ministry of Defense. This development foreshadows a greater reliance on additive manufacturing technology in military aircraft maintenance, providing dawn for the future development of aerospace engineering and defense logistics.