GE Aviation, Lockheed & Optomec Star in Metal 3D Printing Project
The Anniston Army Depot repaired components of the Abrams M1 Tank AGT1500 engine using an Optomec LENS 3D printer, eliminating the high-heat welding process used with traditional methods that can cause distortion effects. This process is now the subject of a $4 million Optomec-headed America Makes project for the Air Force. (Source: Anniston Army Depot)
Really like the direction this program is taking with creating spare parts for legacy flight programs through the use of 3D printing. Since the fabrication of these spare parts is typically high mix and low volume, in many cases, this will prove to be an outstanding fit.
Aside from prototyping and, in some cases, end-production manufacturing, one of the most promising use cases for metal 3D printing and additive manufacturing is for repairing high-value components. But additive manufacturing techniques are not created equal for any of these. The conformal layers that can be achieved with the LENS process on non-flat surfaces of parts makes it stand out for this application.
Alcoa has unveiled a new manufacturing and materials technology for making aluminum sheet, aimed especially at automotive, industrial, and packaging applications. If all its claims are true, this is a major breakthrough, and may convince more automotive engineers to use aluminum.
NASA has just installed a giant robot to help in its research on composite aerospace materials, like those used for the Orion spacecraft. The agency wants to shave the time it takes to get composites through design, test, and manufacturing stages.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is working with architects Foster + Partners to test the possibility of using lunar regolith, or moon rocks, and 3D printing to make structures for use on the moon. A new video shows some cool animations of a hypothetical lunar mission that carries out this vision.
If there's one thing 3D printing's good for, it's customization. New Balance Athletic Shoe Company has begun using 3D printing to make customized spike plates for its running shoes made for members of its Team New Balance runners. They provide better traction and shave off a tiny bit of weight.
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