Saab Success tests 3D printing improvements on its Gripen fighter jet

Saab tests 3D-printed part on Gripen
3D-printed Part on JAS 39 Gripen Fighter

Militarymedia.net - SAAB has made important breakthroughs in the manufacturing of components for the Gripen fighter jet. Precisely on March 19, 2021, Gripen D (tandem seat) from Linkoping Airport, Sweden, succeeded in conducting flight trials using components derived from 3D printing technology. This is a major breakthrough, because 3D printing can be used in the future to repair aircraft damage on the battlefield.

The Gripen D flight test with 3D printed components lasted 30 minutes. The part fitted with the 3D printed component is the rear hatch - the right wing / fuselage joint fairing. For simplicity, the 3D printed components are painted white.

No 3D computer model of the part was available, so the hatch was removed from the plane and placed in a 3D scanner. The resulting model is then programmed into a 3D printer, which generates the part using the PA2200 polymer material.

"Post-flight testing shows that no structural changes have occurred," said HÃ¥kan Stake, Gripen C / D support contract Manager. The advantage of this solution is that the operator (air force) will again need to carry parts and components to different areas of deployment of the force. There is even no need to cannibalize components from other damaged planes for spare parts. And for sure this solution can reduce the operational time lost in repair.

Saab is reported to have developed 3D printing or additive manufacturing (AM) technology at the end of 2017. The success in the flight test is a significant step towards using 3D printed components in the field, which is to reduce the number of spare parts needed to support sustainable combat operations.

In addition, 3D printing of aircraft components will also reduce waiting times for production, or waiting times for shipments from factories which are sometimes a constraint.

Although it is a solution that can be a game changer, however, the application of 3D printing to components on a fighter jet requires further testing, including finding alternative materials that are flexible and can withstand the cold temperatures encountered at high altitudes.

Another challenge with the project is the nature of the containers in which 3D printing equipment can be safely transported while on the move. Apart from internal testing, later on this solution still has to meet satisfy airworthiness requirements.

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