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RAF Fighter Flies On Printed Parts

samzenpus posted about 10 months ago | from the make-me-another dept.

United Kingdom 100

Rambo Tribble writes "In what is being touted as a milestone, Royal Air Force Tornado GR4 fighter jets have flown with 3-D printed parts. The announcement came from defense company BAE Systems, and it depicts the program as a model for cost-saving. From the article: 'The parts include protective covers for cockpit radios and guards for power take-off shafts. It is hoped the technology could cut the RAF's maintenance and service bill by over £1.2m over the next four years.'"

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Proof of concept (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45880853)

$1.2 million is nothing for a modern military. They probably spend more than that for a single part for their fighter planes.

This is good to see, but at this stage it's still proof of concept. It will be a while before prices go down. Until COTS 3D printers that can produce metallic things become cheap, expect programs like this to be a wash in terms of money spent.

Re:Proof of concept (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45880885)

$1.2 million is nothing for a modern military. They probably spend more than that for a single part for their fighter planes.

This is good to see, but at this stage it's still proof of concept. It will be a while before prices go down. Until COTS 3D printers that can produce metallic things become cheap, expect programs like this to be a wash in terms of money spent.

Exactly. Their budget is £3700m per year. They could save more than 1.2m by rounding down every check they write and telling the recipient to "go complain to the queen".

Re:Proof of concept (1)

g0bshiTe (596213) | about 10 months ago | (#45880921)

Except there's little the queen could do except for suggest things to change. Even then it's a suggestion it's not like she can wave a scepter and make it so.

Re:Proof of concept (1)

Lazere (2809091) | about 10 months ago | (#45881067)

I think that was the point. Kind of like a government agent telling you to "call your senator" when their department does something you don't like.

Re:Proof of concept (1)

newcastlejon (1483695) | about 10 months ago | (#45882193)

I think that was the point. Kind of like a government agent telling you to "call your senator" when their department does something you don't like.

If that sort of thing happens then the case usually ends up in court. The government will generally appeal and appeal until they're blue in the face - perhaps to bankrupt whomever was mad enough to test them - but they can and have lost such cases. The government may not like it, but until whatever rabble is in power at that time can stop squabbling long enough to change the law they generally have to obey the ones the previous lot have enacted.

Re:Proof of concept (1)

Smauler (915644) | about 10 months ago | (#45884059)

I think the point GP was making was that the queen doesn't have any actual power, at all. This is a typical misconception - although the queen could in theory veto something, as soon as she did so, the parliament would just pass a law getting rid of her veto, and no one would object.

The UK is a representative democracy, with a monarch as a figurehead, not a true constitutional monarchy.

Re:Proof of concept (1)

Lazere (2809091) | about 10 months ago | (#45887135)

That's the point I was making. Telling them to "go complain to the queen" would be a nicer way of saying "go fuck yourself" in the situation he was describing.

Re:Proof of concept (1)

sentientbeing (688713) | about 10 months ago | (#45882101)

Why. Doesn't she have a scepter? I'm sure they could 3D print one at low cost

Re:Proof of concept (2)

mirix (1649853) | about 10 months ago | (#45882641)

She still has a sceptre, but the magic has been lost and it now has no effect.

Re:Proof of concept (1)

davester666 (731373) | about 10 months ago | (#45895737)

try to remember that when she crushes your skull with it

Re:Proof of concept (1)

azav (469988) | about 10 months ago | (#45891725)

If there's anything the Queen mum should do with that scepter is to immediately un-knight Jony Ive for the abortive iOS7 GUI we all have to deal with now.

Re:Proof of concept (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about 10 months ago | (#45886009)

$1.2 million is nothing for a modern military. They probably spend more than that for a single part for their fighter planes.

They probably spent more than that on the R&D for their amazing new 3D-printed cockpit radio cover.

Fools (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45880863)

The more jobs are done by robots, the more people become unemployed. They come to compete in an already tight marketplace, till you have squeezed many jobs out of the market place. It may be "cool" now to replace a taxi driver, but let me know what you think when it replaces you as well. I do agree that some new jobs / markets / business will be created, but many more will be lost. Don't talk to me about "evolution of marketplace", because guess what. The reality is that not everyone is bright and rising, but everyone needs food and for that you need a paycheck.

Re:Fools (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45880979)

Without automation, the average car would cost more than a million dollars, just getting the people in who can repeatedly file a part down to the tolerances needed. That new iPhone would cost thousands, if not able to be made at all (good luck soldering the BGA chips.)

Automation is a fact of life, and jobs change. When I was a teenager, I loved the job of running around with a hard disk for reimaging machines... but that has been replaced by PXE booting. Life goes on.

The more automation the better. It benefits us all, other than the people with the dead-end work.

Re:Fools (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45881099)

+----------+
|--Please--|
|--Do Not--|
|-Feed The-|
|--Trolls--|
+----------+
    | |
    | |
...\|||/...

Re:Fools (1)

steelfood (895457) | about 10 months ago | (#45882423)

I loved the job of running around with a hard disk for reimaging machines... but that has been replaced by PXE booting.

Now we run around with hard disks when we want to avoid the NSA.

Hell, your local sneaker net can probably offer higher bandwidth than the fastest fiber connection. Huge latency though.

Re:Fools (1)

Smauler (915644) | about 10 months ago | (#45884263)

Without automation, the average car would cost more than a million dollars, just getting the people in who can repeatedly file a part down to the tolerances needed.

My car's engine is hand finished, and it cost £2,500 second hand a few years back. Admittedly, Honda apparently sold them at a loss, but they weren't that much new (about £20k)... Integra Type R.

My sister has just got her exhaust replaced on her series 2 MR2 (her old one had loads of holes, and fell off on the motorway), and the _cheapest_ place anywhere near us was a 3 man garage with a good reputation that made their own. They didn't make the cat.

Just because it's hand made does not mean it will cost the earth... automation is good for mass produced things - car parts for older models are sometimes much cheaper if someone builds them, rather than going to the dealers.

Re:Fools (2)

Firethorn (177587) | about 10 months ago | (#45885837)

It depends a bit on what you consider 'automation' - does a electric screwdriver count as automation? A belt sander? Something is moving without human power, after all. I'll settle for allowing power tools, but everything would have to be guided by a human. IE you can have a drill press with mechanical stops, but a human will actually have to work a wheel/lever to control drill height.

So to look at the examples, the GP was talking about an entire car, not just the engine, plus your engine is 'hand finished', not 'hand made'. My take on it is that most of the parts were still made in the automatic ways, only the final assembly/fitting was done by hand. Consider your exhaust pipe example - while I'm sure they bent the pipe by hand, I'm just as sure that the pipes were made using automated equipment, as was any fittings such as hose clamps, screws, and bolts. In addition for the car you'd also have to craft the wheels, frame, seats, dash, etc...

The reason hand made/custom parts can be cheaper than going to the dealer is that the part might be in a part of it's life cycle where even the part the dealer would get was hand made as well.

Re:Fools (2)

Antonovich (1354565) | about 10 months ago | (#45885401)

That was true in the past but an increasing number of researchers are suggesting it won't be in the future [ox.ac.uk] - . I actually welcome the day when machines can take care of all of the necessities (and a lot of the rest). The way we organise the economy will have to change though, and we can expect complete carnage while people get used to that...

Re:Fools (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45892795)

but iphones do cost 1000s

Re:Fools (2)

r2kordmaa (1163933) | about 10 months ago | (#45881051)

You really think 3D printing needs less human operators than injection molding? Or is your comment aiming for "funny" raiting?

PS: obvious piece of wisdom - if a man can be replaced by a machine - the man is not worth his paycheck

Re:Fools (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about 10 months ago | (#45882433)

You really think 3D printing needs less human operators than injection molding?

My understanding is that many (most?) molded parts still need manual trimming. Is this true and do printed parts needs the same "finishing"?

[ Also, editors, title should be "flies *with* printed parts" not "*on*". ]

Re:Fools (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45888945)

The more jobs are done by robots, the more people become unemployed. They come to compete in an already tight marketplace, till you have squeezed many jobs out of the market place. It may be "cool" now to replace a taxi driver, but let me know what you think when it replaces you as well.

Do you have a talent, skill, or service to offer the world that can't be done be a robot? If you don't have one, what are you doing to acquire one?

If the answers to the above are "no" and "nothing", you need to do some soul searching.

Only 1.2 mil? (1)

js3 (319268) | about 10 months ago | (#45880867)

Doesn't seem like much over 4 years. I suspect it's running at loss at least 2 of those 4 years.

Re:Only 1.2 mil? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45881527)

The Tornado is end of life; it's being phased out for the Typhoon and F-35, and is meant to be out of service in the next 6 years.

The cost of the printers should be pretty negligible compared to the cost of keeping tooled up for a doomed bird, so the real-world savings should be realised pretty quickly - as long as the printed parts can hold up under the required G-forces.

Re:Only 1.2 mil? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45882143)

The Tornado is end of life; it's being phased out for the Typhoon and F-35, and is meant to be out of service in the next 6 years.

The cost of the printers should be pretty negligible compared to the cost of keeping tooled up for a doomed bird, so the real-world savings should be realised pretty quickly - as long as the printed parts can hold up under the required G-forces.

And if they don't, that's one less plane that needs to be retired.

Re:Only 1.2 mil? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45883957)

Unfortunately also potentially one less pilot that would need to be retired too. Fortunately, the RAF and other British forces are less cavalier with the lives of their troops.

Free! Free from the contractors! (4, Interesting)

sandytaru (1158959) | about 10 months ago | (#45880881)

... but we're only free from the contractors if we specify that we need the CAD files for the individual components as part of the initial production contract.

On demand part printing is very cool, but it's kind of a yawn until they fly an entirely 3D printed plane.

Re:Free! Free from the contractors! (4, Insightful)

bob_super (3391281) | about 10 months ago | (#45880995)

Just what we need. Management will say "just print it, you have the files" and not realize that titanium was specced for a reason.
You mean you actually needed that stabilizer to not shear off at mach 2?

Re:Free! Free from the contractors! (3, Insightful)

Rich0 (548339) | about 10 months ago | (#45881105)

Mach 2? Try 40 mph once it starts vibrating and flexing. These surfaces are subject to significant aerodynamic forces even in a small airplane - that's why they're there in the first place...

Re:Free! Free from the contractors! (2)

confused one (671304) | about 10 months ago | (#45881109)

good thing printing in titanium is a possibility

Re:Free! Free from the contractors! (3, Interesting)

bob_super (3391281) | about 10 months ago | (#45881299)

I'm curious for a good reference comparing metal strength and fatigue resistance between printed/machined/welded/forged parts.

Re:Free! Free from the contractors! (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | about 10 months ago | (#45881927)

I have no idea to be honest, but I'd venture a guess that it's been done already for everything except for printed parts, by many parties.

Re:Free! Free from the contractors! (1)

Firethorn (177587) | about 10 months ago | (#45885875)

Me too, but we still need to see some references comparing the strengths/weaknesses between production methods. Though I'd substitute 'cast' for 'machined', or maybe machined/welded forged/cast parts because you can mix and match some of the methods.

Re:Free! Free from the contractors! (1)

Doomsought (3407379) | about 10 months ago | (#45887895)

Its not the forging, its the tempering. Until we have large scale/atomic precision printers (I wouldn't hold my breath for that to arrive) you're printers won't be able to create the mono-crystalline alloys required for modern Jet engines. Huh, that makes me think: a metallic 3-d printer is conceptually a forge turned inside out.

Re:Free! Free from the contractors! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45881513)

A couple of months ago a police helicopter lost power and crashed into a Glasgow pub causing a number of fatalities:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-25414685

The cause was a low fuel level warning system. I doubt that printed parts were involved but it is a reminder how disastrous aircraft developing mechanical faults can be in built areas. Personally, I hope that these parts don't cause accidents due to stress as these RAF fighters fly about where I live from time to time on training missions.

Did you even read the linked article? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45882799)

A couple of months ago a police helicopter lost power and crashed into a Glasgow pub causing a number of fatalities:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-25414685

The cause was a low fuel level warning system

From that link : "The firm said a problem with the low fuel level warning system had been discovered in a number of aircraft. There is no suggestion it is linked to the Clutha bar crash in Glasgow on 29 November, in which 10 people died. Air accident investigators have already said the Police Scotland aircraft did not run out of fuel."

Re:Free! Free from the contractors! (3, Interesting)

mlts (1038732) | about 10 months ago | (#45881643)

The parts mentioned are needed, but a cover for a cockpit radio [1] are not exactly parts facing extreme wear. If one can sinter the blades for a jet engine damaged by a bird strike, that would be a fundamental technological accomplishment, especially if the blades are balanced and could be installed.

[1]: The black box data/voice recorder enclosure is a different story.

Re:Free! Free from the contractors! (1)

Guppy (12314) | about 10 months ago | (#45894227)

If one can sinter the blades for a jet engine damaged by a bird strike, that would be a fundamental technological accomplishment, especially if the blades are balanced and could be installed.

Printing a turbine blade would be quite an accomplishment, considering that modern blades are often made from a single crystal of Superalloy metal [appropedia.org]

.

A dollar here, a dollar there. (2)

bromoseltzer (23292) | about 10 months ago | (#45880883)

But those are some expensive radio covers.

Re:A dollar here, a dollar there. (1)

Errol backfiring (1280012) | about 10 months ago | (#45887663)

Yes they are. Given the vast amount of data a pilot, and especially a fighter pilot must process, presenting that data is a science. I have a nice pre-WW II book that shows the lay-out for the airspeed indicator, the artificial horizon and the altimeter, which all had their needles (or tail indicator) horizontal during cruise flight. If you would pull or push the stick, all needles would simultaneously go up or down. It is quite a craft to design a user interface for a fighter pilot. Especially if there's hardly any room to put it in.

Odd picture for this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45880929)

Is there not a public-domain pic of an actual RAF GR4 Tornado instead of an American F-16 Fighting Falcon?

September never ends (0, Offtopic)

Thud457 (234763) | about 10 months ago | (#45881079)

Just say NO to beta.slashdot.org.
Also, Dice holdings LLC should really move that to a .com /curmudgeon

Re:September never ends (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45881177)

No shit. Every now and then I get directed to the beta site, whether I want to or not.

And I can only agree with you, the beta is absolutely shit, and was apparently coded by morons who don't know the first damned thing about making a usable web site.

Complete and utter garbage.

Re:September never ends (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45882439)

http://slashdot.org/?nobeta=1

Just add "3D printed" to any tech presentation now (2)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about 10 months ago | (#45880939)

Get a guaranteed article about it on Wired or some tech site.

Re:Just add "3D printed" to any tech presentation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45881011)

Not just that, but any idiot with a rickety Makerbot thinks they can 3D print anything at all that is 3D printed by any other technology whatsoever. Just watch.

Re:Just add "3D printed" to any tech presentation (4, Funny)

netsavior (627338) | about 10 months ago | (#45881155)

I heard someone refer to a Lathe as a 3D printer... and my dentist proudly told me that he got a 3D printer for teeth, then showed me his CNC milling machine.

I am just waiting for the swiss army knife "3D printer" pocket knife that allows you to "manually 3D print with Cellulose media"

Re: Just add "3D printed" to any tech presentation (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45881691)

"3d printers" can be additive- the ubiquitous stratasys or similar, or subtractive (Roland MDX or your dentists new toy). Point is that they are driven like a printer, rather than with cnc programming approaches, do can be used by people who aren't machinists.

Re: Just add "3D printed" to any tech presentation (2)

mlts (1038732) | about 10 months ago | (#45882445)

I wonder if it is because sprues are easier to understand than proper tool paths.

I'm curious which one makes less waste overall. On one hand, the aluminum from a mill can be binned and recycled, while depending on the 3D printer, there is likely less waste, although what waste there is isn't as easily recycled.

Re: Just add "3D printed" to any tech presentation (1)

Firethorn (177587) | about 10 months ago | (#45885931)

The thermoplastic used in most conventional 3D printers today can be recycled via melting and recasting them in a shape suitable for the printer - normally a filament of a set size. Otherwise, recycle as per standard plastic rules.

Re:Just add "3D printed" to any tech presentation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45882003)

There you go. My metal bakeware? 3D printer for cakes. Everything is called 3D printing now, get with the program!

Re:Just add "3D printed" to any tech presentation (2)

Trepidity (597) | about 10 months ago | (#45882047)

Although I have nothing against the swiss army knife as a manual subtractive 3d-printer for cellulosic media, this kind of 3d printing really doesn't work for situations where you need thin and flexible output. For that I've been looking into a new DIY additive 3d-printing device [wikipedia.org] that is quite promising. The preliminary results are durable enough that they even stand up to extended daily usage in the wearable-technology vertical.

Re:Just add "3D printed" to any tech presentation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45885633)

extended daily usage in the wearable-technology vertical.

*#%$, the marketspeak, it burns!

Re:Just add "3D printed" to any tech presentation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45882669)

I heard someone refer to a Lathe as a 3D printer... and my dentist proudly told me that he got a 3D printer for teeth, then showed me his CNC milling machine.

Dude. Your dentist's machine likely does 4-axis milling on material that's hard enough to wear out the cutting head after no more than 3-4 teeth (and that's before the milled tooth gets baked to more hardness)

Re:Just add "3D printed" to any tech presentation (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 10 months ago | (#45884143)

Time to find a new dentist. If he doesn't understand his tools, no thanks.

Re:Just add "3D printed" to any tech presentation (1)

Errol backfiring (1280012) | about 10 months ago | (#45887701)

I am just waiting for the swiss army knife "3D printer" pocket knife that allows you to "manually 3D print with Cellulose media"

Now that would be cutting edge technology!

It is hoped (3, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | about 10 months ago | (#45880971)

"It is hoped the technology could cut the RAF's maintenance and service bill by over £1.2m over the next four years."

Yeah it's always hoped that it will save money, yet somehow government contracting just gets more and more expensive every year.

Re:It is hoped (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45881419)

LIBERTARIAN FAGGOT SPOTTED.

Re:It is hoped (3, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | about 10 months ago | (#45881529)

Yeah that's a well known tactic - if you're not intelligent enough to refute the argument then attack the speaker. 4chan is that way ----->

Re:It is hoped (1)

CauseBy (3029989) | about 10 months ago | (#45882655)

He didn't try to refute your argument because you didn't make an argument. You simply made a false statement. In the debate between a false factual claim and an ad hominem attack, both sides lose.

Re:It is hoped (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45881797)

butthurt corporate socialist Republican spotted.

Re:It is hoped (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45882237)

Two points:

1. We don't have libertarians in the UK.
2. Words like "liberal", "socialist", or for that matter "republic" are not dirty words here and calling someone "faggot" will at best make people laugh at you.

Now, kindly fuck off back under your bridge and put some effort in next time.

Re:It is hoped (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45882947)

Two points:

1. We don't have libertarians in the UK. 2. Words like "liberal", "socialist", or for that matter "republic" are not dirty words here and calling someone "faggot" will at best make people laugh at you.

Now, kindly fuck off back under your bridge and put some effort in next time.

You sir, are a cock. Now get the fuck back into your pit you audi driving scumbag before I report you to Jeremy Clarkson!

Re:It is hoped (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45883485)

sounds like its time for a cockmeat sandwich, now both of you get on your knees for some mayo,

*winner*

Re:It is hoped (1)

Smauler (915644) | about 10 months ago | (#45884343)

The UK defense spending is actually stabilising, and is not expected to rise significantly in the next few years. Of course, those in the military spout off about "cuts" everywhere... the fact is, until recently, it was still rising, wages are not increasing significantly in the military, so they must be spending the extra money on something.

Re:It is hoped (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 10 months ago | (#45885267)

The RAF has had some major cuts over the last few decades. If contractors want to continue getting those contracts they need to get cheaper.

i question the wisdom of this (3, Interesting)

r2kordmaa (1163933) | about 10 months ago | (#45881013)

"The parts include protective covers for cockpit radios and guards for power take-off shafts"

Sorry but this is simply moronic, these are cheapest possible parts in the airplane - plastic covers for stuff. It doesnt make much of a price difference if you make 100 or 200 of such plastic parts, its the first one that costs you. Once you have made all that were needed for a batch of machines (aircraft in this case) that were actually ordered, you make a little more and store them for spare parts. The main cost here is spare parts storage - something you need to have anyway. Replacting some storage space with a very expencive 3D printer (you really thought they want to use a 300$ one? think again) makes no sense, you get lower quality parts and making them takes longer than it would take for you to get the parts from storage.

When you get to printing turbine blades - then you are talking business, but for plastic parts.. makes no sense.

Re:i question the wisdom of this (4, Interesting)

similar_name (1164087) | about 10 months ago | (#45881217)

The main cost here is spare parts storage - something you need to have anyway. Replacting some storage space with a very expencive 3D printer (you really thought they want to use a 300$ one? think again) makes no sense, you get lower quality parts and making them takes longer than it would take for you to get the parts from storage.

The military is considering the logistics of access to storage in a battle. It may be considerably cheaper to take a 3D printer and some material to the front than backups of all your parts. I recall reading somewhere that warships tended to carry 3 replacement parts for everything. Since you never know what's going to break you have to carry much more than necessary. A 3D printer should require much less mass and storage since you only need material for the things that actually break, instead of material for everything that might break. The costs of moving backup lenses in hundreds of styles around a battlefield may make 3D printing them more economically viable.

Re:i question the wisdom of this (2)

tapi0 (2805569) | about 10 months ago | (#45881409)

Not just in battle. Storage is expensive and having to keep multiple spares of every single part in stock at the operating base is expensive - the RAF aim for just-in-time provisioning with parts moved forward just as they're expected to break (based on failure rates and supply history). The aircraft can be on detachment anywhere and it's expensive to ship every single part that might be needed to the temporary detachment location.
so, as things break like this there's generally a delay in providing (and a cost in shipping) replacements.
consider as well, that an aircraft may have to land away from its parent base either because of failures, or land for some other reason but have a failure whilst there - as the technology improves, having 3D printers on hand just makes sense
In years gone by, stations had well manned engineering shops where replacement (even temporary) parts could be made up, but as manpower is reduced and parts become more complex/have tighter tolerances then these 3D printers will show their worth.

Re:i question the wisdom of this (2)

r2kordmaa (1163933) | about 10 months ago | (#45881701)

The problem here is that 3D printer can only be used to make a very small subset of spare parts. And these are the type that usually dont break. Seriously, radio will give out the genie 10x before the front panel cracks. Plastic parts are usually ornamental in nature, a plane will not be inoperable because there is a scratch or a crack on some plastic part. Unless the platic part is the canopy - and no 3D printer will make you one of these.

3D printer is a powerful tool for the right job. Like any tool it has its advantages and limitations. All the media hype tends to forget the limitations, or never bothers to find out about them in the first place. 90% of 3D printing related articles seem to think that any day now we will be able to download plans from pirate bay and print ourseves our very own starship Enterprise complete with photonic torpedoes - not gonna happen.

Dirt Cheap(tm) 3d printers can make you cruddy glumps of plastic that somewhat resemble 3D models you fed it, but really have no practical use

Reasonably Priced(tm) 3d printers can make plastic parts with reasonable quality that could be used in a commercial product - after further surface treatments, milling where neccesary, adding thread inserts and whatnot

Very Expencive(tm) 3d printers can make metal and plastic parts with good enough surface finish that they can be used as is in some cases, but mating surfaces still need to be milled to tolerances

And they all take forever to make a single part. One redeeming quality of 3D printing is that you can make geometries that are simply impossible with any other manufacturing method and that is the only reason why anyone uses 3D printing in proffesional setting at all. But if original part was made with conventional manufacturing methods, there is no reason to make a spare part with 3D printing.

Re:i question the wisdom of this (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45882261)

Of course there are reasons to make spare parts with a 3d printer.

First of all, one printer can produce any number of spare parts that the material is good enough for.

Secondly and more importantly, things -- especially in the military, tend to hang around for a long time. It's not unusual for stuff to still be in use when not only the production run has ended, but the original manufacturer has been bought up, met with financial disaster, the tools and jigs necessary to produce the parts have been destroyed, sold or dismantled and the original people who designed them while in their forties have not only retired but died of old age.

Any reasonably imaginative person could think of a million cases where a 3d printer could be a god-send.

Re:i question the wisdom of this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45885281)

you could get a surplus 3d printer 50 years from now and have a whole Army Navy Surplus store in a closet sized building!

Hmmmm ... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 10 months ago | (#45881063)

RAF Fighter Flies On Printed Parts

TFS doesn't sound like any part actually involved in flight was printed. But essentially covers for other parts.

Now, don't get me wrong, printing your own spare parts sounds good and all -- but I'm willing to bet no piece involved in flight or flight control was actually printed and used in flight just yet.

In other words, no RAF fighter has actually flown using parts critical to flight, but just caps and covers for other things.

Re:Hmmmm ... (1)

wcrowe (94389) | about 10 months ago | (#45881157)

I hate the title too, for the same reason. It did get me to read the article, so I guess it served its purpose. I have trouble believing that printed parts can be as strong as traditionally manufactured parts, so I too would be surprised if any critical parts were manufactured this way.

Re:Hmmmm ... (2)

timeOday (582209) | about 10 months ago | (#45881165)

What makes it significant is not anything in particular about the parts, but the fact they can save over 1 million pounds in the next few years with it. Imagine some airfield in an isolated location... a little plastic cap that would cost 4 cents to mass-produce on an assembly line probably costs ten-thousand times that by the time it goes onto a plane, because it is made in small quantities, procured through some byzantine contracting process, and then shipped around the globe through military logistics.

Re:Hmmmm ... (1)

mlts (1038732) | about 10 months ago | (#45881597)

That is the exact beauty of 3D printing [1]. Assuming one had the proper materials on hand for sintering, that pitot tube (without which one can't do much flying, as one doesn't know how fast the plane is going.) which sheared off can be replaced on site as opposed to waiting days for a part to be mailed, especially if one is at a very remote location.

For short runs, there is nothing that beats 3D printing. For high-volume items, things can be different, but it seems to have less waste and less dangerous overall to the clueless than a CNC mill, although there are some tasks which CNC mills excel at (lathes for example) which 3D printing will not get anywhere near the precision unless manually shaped afterwards.

[1] I feel old... I used to know it as stereolithography.

Re:Hmmmm ... (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about 10 months ago | (#45882081)

TFS doesn't sound like any part actually involved in flight was printed.

Here's one made entirely of printed parts [dorsetcereals.com]

(ducks)

Calling Chuck Schumer! (2)

cervesaebraciator (2352888) | about 10 months ago | (#45881137)

Heh. I expect within hours to see a bill in the U.S. Senate banning the 3-D printing of fighter planes. Someone might sneak those things through metal detectors, though he might have to do it one piece at a time [youtube.com] . Of course, 3-D printing a fighter plane (rather than just replacement parts for the console) is impractical and printing one that would actually work as a fighter plane is impossible, but the likelihood of someone doing so has never really been the issue.

If the above statement seems a little exaggerated, I'll confess that it is. But it's no more exaggerated than giving this article the title "RAF Fighter Flies On Printed Parts", when we're just talking about console parts. The original title was, "RAF jets fly with 3D printed parts." I am saddened that the /. version is both less accurate and more sensationalist.

Re:Calling Chuck Schumer! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45882971)

Who needs printing fighter planes. Terrorists in the caves are already printing jumbo jets to crash into buildings. :)

Once mainstream, it will change industry (1)

mtippett (110279) | about 10 months ago | (#45881331)

Take a look at http://eandt.theiet.org/news/2013/oct/metal-3d-printing.cfm [theiet.org]

One of the many engineering triangles (design for cost, manufacturability, performance) is slowly getting turned on its head. The manufacturability aspect historically has held back performance and held back cost. With 3d printing, in particular with metals, the cost is volumetric - not complexity or volume driven, and the manufacturability is greatly simplified (needs to be defined in 3d space). This allows the designer of a part to minimize the compromises that they need to take.

It may reduce tolerances due to manufacturability, but as the above link shows, you end up with a part which supports the specifications that are needed.

My personal experiences are in trying to find a out-of-production part for a cupboard ( http://use-cases.org/2013/07/10/3d-printing-shelf-pegs/ [use-cases.org] ), 3 hours with a modeling tool saved a further 3 hours going through drawers at the hardware store or 3 hours on the internet searching for them. 3d printing solved my problem, and solved problems for a lot of other people (there have been about 150 orders on shapeways for this part).

The RAF are sissies (0)

Mister Liberty (769145) | about 10 months ago | (#45881393)

The empire has been lost for some time.
You don't even know how to use TFR.

Plastic or metal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45881507)

The first sentences in the article explicitly speak of "metal parts", but then the rest of the article goes on explaining that they are plastic. Have I become dumb overnight or is the article confusing? Did they 3D-print metal? It does not seem to me. What's clear to me is that the article could have been written a lot better.

Not new (2)

necro81 (917438) | about 10 months ago | (#45881545)

3D printing has been used for complex parts in aircraft for years. Specifically, some turbine blades have been 3D printed in metal, because they can have internal passages for cooling. It's not quite a net part - the airfoil shape and the retaining dovetail need to be post-machined, but it's a lot faster than the investment casting it replaced.

Re:Not new (1)

EmperorArthur (1113223) | about 10 months ago | (#45881745)

I think there more referring to 3d printing replacement parts in house. So if the plane breaks the mechanic can just 3d print a replacement cover or bracket right then and there. That means they don't have to keep several of the things in storage just in case, and don't ever have to wait on a stupid $5 radio cover to get the $50 million dollar plane back in the air.

Re:Not new (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45881909)

What commercially deployed turbine has 3d printed blades in it? None?
Investment casting turbine blades is slow because of the single crystal production process. Can a 3d printed part provide SX performance? Not yet.

Re:Not new (1)

twosat (1414337) | about 10 months ago | (#45883693)

3-D printing is now being used to make a modern version of the F1 rocket engines used in the Saturn V moon rocket.

http://arstechnica.com/science/2013/08/dynetics-reporting-outstanding-progress-on-f-1b-rocket-engine/ [arstechnica.com]

http://arstechnica.com/science/2013/08/nasa-test-fires-3d-printed-rocket-parts-low-cost-high-power-innovation/ [arstechnica.com]

Great way to introduce these things (1)

Theovon (109752) | about 10 months ago | (#45881571)

When it comes to aeronautics, liability is a major concern, so the idea of putting in something really new like this is probably a bit conerning to some people, so this is a good way to introduce it: Start by making noncritical components like plastic shields that are mostly cosmetic as a way to test out the technology safely, and gradually expand to new things as the approach is proven.

Space ships should be printed in outer space (1)

Andover Chick (1859494) | about 10 months ago | (#45882011)

Why launch space station/ship components, especially structural components, into outer space? They're bulky and can be damaged. Instead, launch 3D printer input materials into space and print out the space ship there. Besides, pure materials, such as compressed aluminum powder, can withstand big g-forces so alternate and cheaper launch devices, such as a super gun (the dream of infamous Gerald Bull), can be used.

Re:Space ships should be printed in outer space (1)

Firethorn (177587) | about 10 months ago | (#45886689)

Your idea is neat but we still have a long way to go. Consider that most of those components you're sending up are generally made of numerous disparate layers, chock full of equipment, or failing that full of pipes and other tubing.

I've proposed having a 'solar smelter' before, but even then I mostly envisioned it being used to convert trash/waste into shielding and/or simple structural materials.

Astronaught time is too valuable to waste running cables and doing extensive assembly work. Though a 3D printer using sun assisted sintering with 2-4 robot arms to move the 'printer' and the work in progress would be neat as heck.

Here comes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45882067)

3D samzenpus. But we can all hope that the new and improved 3D version will do better spell checks and dupe checks?

One thing that is innaccurate in the summary... (1)

Gareth Iwan Fairclough (2831535) | about 10 months ago | (#45882107)

The tornado GR4 is a bomber, not a fighter. "GR" stands for "ground role". There was an interceptor variant in service, but that was replaced afaik by the typhoon (aka eurofighter).

Re:One thing that is innaccurate in the summary... (1)

Gareth Iwan Fairclough (2831535) | about 10 months ago | (#45882153)

Doh, I hit "post" far too soon. Tornado F3 were the interceptor/fighter variants (F meaning "Fighter" as you might expect). The F3 was retired back in 2012.

Re:One thing that is innaccurate in the summary... (1)

Shimbo (100005) | about 10 months ago | (#45886665)

The tornado GR4 is a bomber, not a fighter.

BAE, the manufacturers claim it was a Tornado fighter, although they may have tested on another variant.

Re:One thing that is innaccurate in the summary... (1)

Gareth Iwan Fairclough (2831535) | about 10 months ago | (#45903883)

The tornado GR4 is a bomber, not a fighter.

BAE, the manufacturers claim it was a Tornado fighter, although they may have tested on another variant.

It may be that they have a few retired F3's left in storage or something, but other than that the tornado is not a fighter. In fact, the tornado was actually designed as a bomber in the first place. Really it was the opposite of what happened with the F-14.

3d printer is the new paradigm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45885319)

A 3d printer is the new paradigm. So if you have the extruder change its X-axis location, then you have a paradigm shift. ...I'm here all week. Remember to tip your waitress. Try the veal.

Malvinas (1)

sk3llb3rt (3489257) | about 10 months ago | (#45886521)

So we just lug a 3D printer down to Port Stanley and jobsagoodun!

Need More Material (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45889183)

In future wars, I think the losing side should have to Open Source all their tech drawings.

Yeah, but (1)

azav (469988) | about 10 months ago | (#45891709)

The reverse has been done for quite some time. A CNC routing machine works by trimming material from a block to get the desired shape.

This is pretty standard.

I have seen a video from a rebuild of a WWII jet that did use a printed part or two. These were created overnight by a fabrication machine (I think it was at Lockheed) and were used in a nonfunctional component since the jet was rebuilt just to see what the original may have looked like.

If we look at the two processes, material removal and material deposition, it is much easier to machine a block of metal that has a known rating of its qualities, than it is to create a functional component through printing technologies, vapor deposition, et al., and be able to fine tune the qualities of the resulting material.

In any case, we certainly are at the dawn of a very interesting age of manufacturing with both the subtractive and additive processes at the disposal of industry.

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