With military budgets still being slashed, the US Air Force is trying to stay a step ahead. They are using 3D printing to print on demand custom parts. The parts designed in house can save the military by cutting out the need to contract engineers and manufacturing facilities. The 60th Maintenance Squadron at Travis Air Force Base in California was recently certified by the US Air Force. They are the first field unit to have an industrial size Stratasys F900 3D Printer.
The First Print
This printer has a build Area of 36 x 24 x 36 inches. The Air Force has stated it will print hard to find parts for some of its older air frames. They will also be taking orders from other military bases throughout the US and Europe. For their first print they printed these latrine covers for the C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft. It’s funny that a toilet lid is the first thing they printed.
What Does the Future Hold
Officials at Travis AFB stated they are also attempting to procure printers capable of producing metal parts. Travis AFB is not the only military installation to adopt 3D printing. Travis AFB is the only printer certified to print military grade aircraft parts. Other installations begun to experiment by purchasing smaller less costly 3D Printers for printing parts that don’t require certification.
Military adoption of these 3D Printing technologies is great for the community. Manufactures will be held to a higher standard when dealing with federal contracts. As such we in the community may see safer products being developed in the future. As military budgets continue to shrink. Additive technologies such as these will allow the military to save money. By printing much needed replacement parts which in many cases are not being carried in stock anymore.