“We took the mask and added some off-the-shelf parts and some 3D-printed parts and converted it into a piece of equipment that can work in an aircraft,” said Senior Master Sgt. David Siemiet, an aircrew flight equipment superintendent.
The Aircrew Eye/Respiratory Protection System, or AERPS, which is used now, is expensive, heavy and prone to issues that can take a long time to repair because of the waiting time for replacement parts. But the M-50 joint-service, general purpose mask is lightweight and cheap – and when hooked up to an oxygen system, air flows through its chemical filters to the wearer, whose eyes are protected by goggles, according to Siemiet.
To build the prototype, the airmen took inspiration from an Army system that hooks soldiers’ masks to air blowers to help them cope with the stifling environment inside a battle tank. The airmen came up with a cap that blocks airflow into one side of the mask and an adaptor that allows it to attach to a hose that can be plugged into an oxygen system. AERPS Ultra, as the airmen call it, was created using standard parts and two 3D printed components made on a printer that Sen. Airman David Petrich bought for a few hundred dollars.Modifying one mask costs about 75 cents but has the potential to save the Air Force at least $8 million. The M-50 also weighs less than a pound, compared to the 40 pounds of chemical protection gear currently used by air crews. Unlike the current AERPS, the modified mask does not require a power supply that needs to be hooked up to on-board electricity or use expensive batteries.
“You can wear the mask onto the plane and latch in and you are good to go,” Petrich said.
According to Tech. Sgt. Eric Lundeen, the airmen 3D printed a dozen parts before coming up with a working prototype.
“3D printing is something new. There are only a dozen bases out there with 3D printers,” he said.
“This is going to affect every pilot in the Air Force,” Lundeen said. “It gives them a lot more flexibility and mobility, increases safety and saves a ton of money.”
The masks, which are much more comfortable as well as cheaper and safer, have been approved for flight testing in Japan in July.
Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below.[Source: Stars and Stripes]
You May Also Like
Sakuu: Disrupting More than Just Batteries with 3D Printing
To me, Bay Area firm Sakuu is one of the most exciting in the industry. In May, it announced that it would be releasing a 3D printing system for producing...
Desktop Metal Buys Multi-Material 3D Printing Startup Aerosint
Desktop Metal (NYSE: DM) has bought Aerosint, a firm that has developed a system capable of multi-material metal and polymer 3D printing on sintering systems. Aerosint’s technology can selectively dispense...
Mitsubishi Enters Metal Binder Jetting with Digital Metal Deal
Mitsubishi has been one of the more interesting players in the 3D printing industry as of late, due to their steady growth in the space. Though I’ve been told that...
Battery 3D Printing Firm Considers Publicly Traded U.S. Branch
Blackstone Resources AG (SWX: BLS) has announced that it is exploring the possibility of opening a U.S. branch that would be publicly traded. The firm, which is currently traded on...
View our broad assortment of in house and third party products.