IAF Envisions 3-D Print-a-Plane


The Israeli Air Force is planning to introduce the 3-D printing of airplane parts, in order to reduce dependence on foreign suppliers and enable the military to repair and replace parts on its own, especially during wartime, according to a report in Defense News on Sunday.

“In wartime, we can be here around the clock working to return aircraft to their home squadrons,” said Lt. Col. Maxim Orgad, commander of Depot 22’s Engineering Division. “The more we master this technology, the more we’ll be able to use it to save precious time and bridge critical gaps.”

Over the past three years, the IAF has honed the new technology, and production of spare parts that used to take weeks or months can now be accomplished in a matter of hours or a few days, Orgad said.

“Before, we had to make a mold of the part, but now we’re using a 3-D scanner, which we can take anywhere and use to scan different parts of the aircraft. The scanner makes the 3-D model, which we then take to our manufacturing center where we manufacturer through traditional methods,” he said.

“Granted, this is only the beginning. But eventually we’ll be able to reap even bigger benefits by actually printing our own parts.”

The first to benefit from 3-D printing will be Israel’s fleet of UAVs, but eventually all types of aircraft will be able to use the new technology for a quick, homemade supply of replacement parts.

“Our engineers are working in this new field. We’re researching the materials, properties and processes associated with 3-D design and manufacturing. We’re looking at how we can use this technology to fix airplanes and to fly on airplanes. … And as we gain knowledge and experience, we’ll begin to improve some parts in manned aircraft,” Orgad said, though he did qualify that, saying: “But we have a long way ahead of us until then.”

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