TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla., Oct. 19 (UPI) -- The Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex, a maintenance organization at Tinker Air Force Base, is finalizing plans to expand 3-D printing in their operations.
The organization's officials predict 3-D printing will be used for making aircraft engine parts in addition to printing electronic components. Kristian Olivero, the top scientist and engineer for the complex, says the technology is quickly approaching that point.
"We've realized that additive manufacturing is a technology that is mature enough, that it is being adopted very strongly in industry right now, and that we as a depot need to build this capability," Olivero said. "This is a step-change technology that will really change in some ways how we can do depot maintenance. It will give us a lot of speed and flexibility, but it's something that we have to learn to manage and understand how to use."
The air logistics complex is one of the largest units of the Air Force Material Command. The complex employs over 9,400 military and civilian personnel to perform programmed depot maintenance on a variety of aircraft at the base, including the C/KC-135, B-1B, B-52 and E-3.
The plan uses additive manufacturing machines as part of the Air Force's Complex of the Future strategy. The machines are used to build objects from raw materials fed into them. This could change the way aircraft is maintained, as replacement engine parts could be printed on demand at the repair site instead of being shipped to the depot using laser mapping and other techniques.
"The speed of it and the flexibility of it will very much improve our industrial base, where we're repairing aircraft that are getting older and older," Olivero added.