The British defence group BAE Systems has installed the fourth Stratasys F900 3D printer at the Samlesburry location. It will be used for 3D printing of production tools with the Nylon 12CF filament of Stratasys.
In Samlesbury, the defence and space company BAE Systems is building the Factory of the Future. “Our Factory of the Future program revolves around the future of fighter aircraft production with disruptive technologies. Stratasys FDM additive manufacturing plays an important role in this initiative because it helps us reduce costs and time to market,” says Greg Flanagan, Additive Manufacturing Operations Lead, BAE Systems Air.
Testing new materials
With the new G900 installation, BAE Systems not only increases the print capacity. They want to print 3D production tools on the new 3D printer with the carbon fibre-filled FDM Nylon 12CF material. With this material one prints robust but light tools for the production and assemblyline. According to Flanagan, the FDM 3D printing technology in particular offers the possibility of reducing the tooling costs for new products. This is certainly the case with tools that are often needed in small numbers.
Replacing tools cheaper by 3D printing
“With 3D printing, we can innovate many of our traditional production processes,” says Greg Flanagan. “We can quickly replace one-off parts for new products in 3D printing, replace tools more easily and cheaply, and maintain production operations when hardware slows down”. He also points out that the company can react more flexibly when supply chains are disrupted for whatever reason. BAE Systems then has its own production capacity – the Stratasys Fortus 3D printers – in house to react quickly.
End parts for the ground operations
BAE Systems also uses the Fortus 900 3D printers to produce parts for the ground equipment of the aircraft. For example, the cockpit floor cover for the Typhoon fighter aircraft. These are printed with ABS and ASA filaments. “With our F900, the thermoplastic covers can be made much faster than traditionally manufactured versions. They are also much lighter and therefore easier to handle for the ground crew, which improves efficiency in the maintenance, repair and overhaul process”. Even the color red in which BAE Systems prints this part is functional. Red is the color of all ‘removable’ parts for the flight, Flanagan explains.