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Air Force Uses 3D Printing to Replace F-22 Part

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

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Following an established history of using 3D printing for legacy aircraft parts that may no longer be in production, the U.S. Air Force, in December, installed a 3D-printed metallic bracket on an operational F-22 Raptor during maintenance by the 574th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.

According to the Air Force, the 3D-printed titanium bracket is the first of many metallic additive manufactured parts planned for creation through public-private partnerships.

3D-Printed Bracket

“One of the most difficult things to overcome in the F-22 community, because of the small fleet size, is the availability of additional parts to support the aircraft,” said Robert Lewin, 574th AMXS director.

U.S. Air Force

Following an established history of using 3D printing for legacy aircraft parts that may no longer be in production, the U.S. Air Force, in December, installed a 3D-printed metallic bracket on an operational F-22 Raptor during maintenance by the 574th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.

The new piece, one that will not corrode, located in the kick panel assembly of the cockpit, will replace the traditional aluminum bracket that is known for corroding. To create the bracket, a “powder bed fusion process that utilizes a laser" builds the part layer by layer from a titanium powder, according to the Air Force. The traditional aluminum bracket is replaced 80 percent of the time when maintenance takes place.

“We had to go to engineering, get the prints modified, we had to go through stress testing to make sure the part could withstand the loads it would be experiencing–which isn’t that much, that is why we chose a secondary part,” said Robert Blind, Lockheed Martin modifications manager.

During use, the part will be monitored and inspected when maintenance is carried out. If the part performs as needed, it will be installed on all F-22 aircraft. At least five more metallic 3D printed parts are planned for testing in the fleet.

“Once we get to the more complicated parts, the result could be a 60-70 day reduction in flow time for aircraft to be here for maintenance,” said Lewin.

   

Tagged categories: 3D Printing; Aerospace; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Testing + Evaluation; U.S. Air Force

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