AMS Spring 2023

Maine Air National Guard 3D Prints Aircraft Repair Training Aids with Essentium Platform


Share this Article

Essentium Inc., an Austin-based original equipment manufacturer (OEM) specializing in extrusion additive manufacturing (AM) platforms, announced that the Maine Air National Guard employs the company’s High Speed Extrusion (HSE) 180 ST system to produce training aids. Specifically, Maine’s 101st Air Refueling Wing (ARW) has printed replicas of outboard aileron balance tabs in Essentium PCTG filament, used for training guardsmen to repair those critical parts.

The outboard aileron balance tab is part of an aircraft’s flight control surface, which, as the name suggests, facilitates the aircraft’s ability to stay in balance while in flight. The parts are in frequent need of repair, making familiarity with the maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) process on balance tabs especially crucial for aircraft mechanics and engineers. And, as with essentially all aircraft parts these days — in both the military and civilian aerospace markets — balance tabs are in short supply, meaning there is an even shorter supply of extra parts available to be used just for training exercises.

In a press release about the Maine Air National Guard’s use of the Essentium HSE 180 ST, the company’s CEO, Blake Teipel, commented, “This valuable tool has also caught the attention of other local military components, such as the Maine Army National Guard, who began requesting similar training aids for their rotary aircraft. We’re excited that the Essentium HSE is currently being used as a cross-functional force multiplier that can shape the future of readiness across the joint force.” Master Sgt. Jason Howes explained, “You can’t put a value on having proficiently trained guardsmen. The confidence they get from putting their hands on the product, understanding what the result will look like, and gaining muscle memory is simply invaluable.”

Additionally, as the press release notes, the likelihood of destroying aircraft parts with improper repair is another factor in favor of using realistic replicas. Thus, even if there is an unexpected reversal of the shortage in aircraft parts, the use of replicas would be a much less costly option for training purposes than real balance tabs, or any other mission critical element.

Finally, the particularly ingenious aspect to producing training tools with AM is that it simultaneously accomplishes the task of two different forms of training — the other form, of course, being the training of guardsmen to use the machines that print the training aids. This is obviously applicable outside of this one area of the military, as is implied by Essentium’s CEO in the above quote. It is also applicable to more or less any other field one can think of, where employees have to be trained to repair expensive parts.

Making training aids is not a new use of AM, by any means. However, these particular use-case examples will take on new significance the more that the AM sector faces labor shortages while it also tries to scale up. The fact that the military is at the forefront of this overlap between training exercises and advanced manufacturing, is just one of the many pieces of evidence suggesting that the future of the 3D printing labor pool, as a whole, is already largely being shaped by the armed forces.

Share this Article

Recent News

3D Printing Webinar and Event Roundup: January 29, 2023

3D Printing News Briefs, January 28, 2023: Bronze-Steel Alloys, 3D Printing on Textiles, & More


3D Design

3D Printed Art

3D Printed Food

3D Printed Guns

You May Also Like


How to Win at 3D Printing Acquisitions: the Sandvik Example

As the 3D printing market continues a new phase of growth, this time fueled more likely by large, existing holders of capital, we will see more interesting plays by larger...

3D Printing Webinar and Event Roundup: January 22, 2023

For this weekend’s roundup, the TIPE 3D Printing Conference kicks things off with its third iteration on Tuesday, and ASTM International will hold an AM construction workshop. There will also...

3D Printing News Briefs, January 21, 2023: 3D Printing Camp for Kids, Medical Devices, & More

Let’s get kids 3D printing! Kicking off 3D Printing News Briefs today, Anycubic and Yale Funbotics held virtual camps to introduce children to 3D modeling and 3D printing. Moving on...

3D Printing News Briefs, January 19, 2023: Metal AM Standard, Inkjet 3D Printing, & More

We’re beginning with standards news in today’s 3D Printing News Briefs, before moving on to a business collaboration and a new facility. Risk management and quality assurance provider DNV released...