BAE Systems producing 3D printed components for Tornado fighters

Jan. 7, 2014 at 3:59 PM

LONDON, Jan. 7 (UPI) -- BAE Systems in Britain has announced 3D printed components made by its engineers have flown for the first time aboard Tornado fighter jets.

Details of the 3D printed components were not disclosed, but BAE said its combat engineering team is using 3D printing to engineer ready-made parts for supply to four squadrons of Tornado GR4 aircraft -- including protective covers for Tornado cockpit radios, support struts on the air intake door and protective guards for power take-off shafts.

The work is being conducted at a Royal Air Force base.

The designing and producing 3D printed functional components will cut the cost of repairs, maintenance and service for the Royal Air Force by more than $1.9 million in the next four years, it said.

BAE Systems also said it expects 3D printing to be applied to other military systems.

"You are suddenly not fixed in terms of where you have to manufacture these things [products]," said Mike Murray, head of Airframe Integration at BAE Systems. "You can manufacture the products at 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."

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