MIDWEST CITY, Okla. (KFOR) – Officials at Tinker Air Force Base say members of a local Air Force Sustainment Center wing have made history.
Members of the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex have produced the first additively manufactured metal component successfully tested on a U.S. Air Force aircraft engine.
Officials say the crew used 3D printing to create an anti-ice gasket for the TF33-P103 engine, which can save time and improve efficiency.
Expert say it is a significant milestone for future sustainment of aircraft.
“This accomplishment is truly a historical first,” said Johnny Tsiao, AFLCMC propulsion structural competency lead. “This is a digitally designed and digitally engineered component that represents a substantial milestone in Air Force sustainment. Although it is a basic component, the technology our OC-ALC team has developed will help resolve supply chain issues and help bring further capacities to support the warfighter.”
Officials say the development came as a result of a supply shortage of anti-ice gaskets.
“One of the things we found in this collaboration is that we could potentially solve the supply shortage by reengineering and printing something and prove it was safe to fly,” said Richard Banks, 76th PMXG delegated engineering authority engineer. “This type of engineering makes it easier to source materials, greatly reduces lead time and ultimately helps to reduce logistical and supply issues.”
So far, the REACT lab has digitally engineered and printed 30 anti-ice gaskets. The 3D printing takes crews just 14 to 21 days to make the component, compared to the original method’s 120 to 136 days.
OC-ALC engineers say they are optimistic about the future of 3D printing and its use in improving the Air Force sustainment process.
“We’ve implemented a crawl, walk and run approach when it comes to additive manufacturing,” said Tsiao. “We haven’t had a 3D printed metal component in Air Force engines before, but in the next 12-24 months, this technology will open the door to more complex and critical components that help to improve our sustainment efforts moving forward.”
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