The 60th Maintenance Squadron (60th MXS) at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, California, is the first field unit in the United States Air Force to produce approved nonstructural aircraft parts using 3D printing – an additive manufacturing technique. The first parts: latrine covers on the Lockheed C-5M Super Galaxy strategic airlifter.
Initially three maintainers in the squadron were trained and certified with Stratasys F900 industrial-sized 3D printer which prints parts up to 36-by-24-by-36 inches in Ultem 9085 thermoplastic – a material ideal for aerospace applications based on its flexibility, density, strength, weight, and flame retardant properties. The printer itself is certified by the Federal Aviation Administration and the Air Force Advanced Technology and Training Center and prints from an online database of parts developed by the University of Dayton Research Institute.
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William Kucinski is content editor at SAE International, Aerospace Products Group in Warrendale, Pa. Previously, he worked as a writer at the NASA Safety Center in Cleveland, Ohio and was responsible for writing the agency’s System Failure Case Studies. His interests include literally anything that has to do with space, past and present military aircraft, and propulsion technology.
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