American armed forces place increasing hopes in 3D printing technology. Rising trust in the quality of elements made in additive technology increases the number of potential applications.

United States Army Aviation and Missile Command (AMCOM) have partnered with the National Institute of Aeronautics Research of the University of Wichita and jointly began work on a digital spare parts repository. The first project within their cooperation will be the creation of a digital twin helicopter Black Hawk UH-60 L by dismantling it into parts and developing virtual models on its basis. The goal is to create a helicopter spare parts catalog. In the future, it will be much easier to print 3D than find the original items.

General Todd Royar of AMCOM says that this is a new way to maintain and maintain military vehicles, and the ongoing project will strengthen relations between the US Armed Forces and Wichita State University. Representatives of Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, the manufacturer of original Black Hawk helicopters, will also help in the project.

The latest Black Hawk UH-60 L helicopter models are Lima and Mike. Nevertheless, the Lima model has not been produced for 15 years, and some of its parts are created on the basis of projects from 40 years ago. Creating a repository of digital models would allow the creation of items not produced for decades. Royar adds that 3D printing is an opportunity to enable the readiness of the entire UH-60 fleet while reducing operating costs.

The military also wants to move away from a supply model based solely on one supplier and provide itself with the possibility of creating its own components to become independent of any problems with the supply chain. According to university representative Douglas Denno, the creation of a digital twin helicopter opens new perspectives for improving production efficiency.

We recently wrote about a project implemented by the US Air Force in cooperation with GE. Last year, companies began working with the United States Air Force to accelerate the adaptation of additive technology as a spare parts production method. As part of the collaboration, the first 3D printed element of the F110 jet engine, used in F-15 and F-16 fighter aircraft, was developed. The possibility of manufacturing an additive oil pan cover will reduce the risk of interruption in production related to logistical problems, and will also allow the creation of spare parts for older engine models.


Magdalena Przychodniak
Editor-in-Chief of the 3D Printing Center. A biomedical engineer following the latest reports on bioprinting and 3D printing in modern medicine.

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