JANUARY 20TH, 2014


BAE Systems Regional Aircraft has designed and achieved European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) Form 1 certification approval for an aircraft part for the BAe 146 regional jetliner using innovative new 3D printing (Additive Manufacture) technology.

The part is a plastic window breather pipe used as a vent to stop cabin windows misting up.

These pipes were originally made by injection moulding in plastic, but the tooling that had been used by the supplier was no longer available. New tooling would have cost £14,000 and involved several months lead time. In addition, the lead time to actually produce the parts would have been a further two months.

Philip Beard, Structures Support Manager at BAE Systems Regional Aircraft contacted the central engineering team at the BAE Systems Military Air & Information business at Warton, Lancashire who are busily experimenting with and building knowledge on 3D printing technology.

He said: “Within two weeks our Warton colleagues had produced examples of the part and once we had used these to gain certification, they introduced us to a commercial 3D printing supplier who was able to produce the required quantity for us. Not only was there the significant time saving and the avoidance of the tooling cost, but the actual parts cost 60 percent less than the traditional method.”

300 of the window vent pipes were made and these are now in stock at Regional Aircraft’s Weybridge spares warehouse and are being shipped to customers for use as they require on in-service aircraft.

BAE Systems Regional Aircraft has successfully transistioned from an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) provider of support and engineering services to its in-service fleet to becoming an integrated solutions provider for all aircraft types. As part of its service offering, the business is able to design or source replacement parts, arrange their manufacture, obtain certification and then support them through its established programmes.

Philip Beard added: “Having achieved this first breakthrough on the BAe 146 window breather pipe, we are now looking at a range of other 3D Printing opportunities to provide replacement parts across several different commercial aircraft types.

This technology offers a potential solution for aircraft parts that are prone to obsolescence, where tooling is unavailable, for quick turn rounds and also for small batch production. It may not be the solution for every part, but where appropriate, it provides a faster route from design to completed parts meaning operators get the parts cheaper and quicker”

As well as components made from plastic, 3D printing is also suitable for metal parts and BAE Systems has produced 3D printing metal parts for testing on military aircraft.

BAE Systems Regional Aircraft is participating at the AVM Summit Europe at London Olympia January 21-22 and will showcase examples of BAE Systems work on 3D printing. Graham Smith, Head of Business Development for the business, will also address the PMA Parts Track element of the conference on the subject of “Obtaining replacement parts approval under EASA standards.”