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AMS Spring 2023

BAE to 3D Print 30 Percent of Tempest Fighter Jets

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3D printing has impacted innovation on nearly every level; however, some industries are undeniably defined as more important—and especially when they affect worldwide defense, aerospace applications, and security. Operating in over 40 countries, you may be surprised to learn what a dynamic force BAE Systems has already been in 3D printing—from opening additive manufacturing facilities to creating partnerships to involvement in hybrid 3D printing projects. Now, as they announce radical design and production changes, suppliers must begin to adjust—not only to innovation in design but increased reliance on robotics for production.

BAE will be manufacturing 30 percent of its Tempest fighter jet parts via 3D printing, with yet another facility opening in Warton, Lancashire. This new “first-of-its-kind” smart factory will also see Tempest parts being assembled by robots on the assembly line. Along with advanced automation, engineers at the new facility will employ virtual and augmented reality in creating combat aircraft.

As the worldwide economy has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, industrial leaders must seek more affordable methods of production. Relying further on the benefits of additive manufacturing, BAE Systems is able to save on the bottom line, as well as cutting time in production by half; in fact, for one rear fuselage part, BAE has gone from taking two years for manufacturing to two months. Enjoying another of the greatest advantages with 3D printing too, BAE now has the option of 3D printing more components in-house rather than sending them to a middleman for production.

While the company may be increasing its usage of 3D printing now, like a handful of other organizations and companies, BAE has actually been using the technology for 20 years. Beginning with rapid prototyping (the initial, intended use for 3D printers in aiding engineers), the BAE team has evolved into 3D printing standard, functional parts for aircraft like the Typhoon. Working with both Renishaw and Stratasys, new doors have opened up offering access to even greater AM resources—allowing BAE to strengthen its presence within the industry through revolutionizing research, design, development, and actual production of aircraft systems.

“Driving our manufacturing capabilities forward as we prepare for the fourth industrial revolution will sustain and develop critical skillsets and ensure we can continue to deliver military capability to address future threats, whilst improving productivity and delivering value for money for our customers,” said BAE Systems Air Manufacturing Director Dave Holmes, upon the opening of the new smart factory.

[Source / Images: New Atlas]

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