First flight of a Tornado fighter plane equipped with 3D printed parts

The European Space Agency (ESA) presented, Tuesday, Oct. 15 at the Science Museum of London, the first metal parts obtained from a 3D printer. An event considered by the BBC as the transition to the “Iron Age” of this technology has already revolutionized the design of visual objects. These new parts that can withstand temperatures of 3,000 degrees, may be used by the aerospace industry, both in the design of aircraft as missiles, but also in nuclear reactors. >> Read: The dark side of 3D printers ESA to develop, in partnership with the European Union and aerospace heavyweights such as Airbus aims to EADS Astrium or, methods of production on a large scale to generalize eventually the 3D printers use for metal, now confined to the plastic. This innovative technology offers many benefits, notes the BBC. 3D printing, also called “additive layer manufacturing” or “additive manufacturing”, makes it possible to create complex shapes, “unobtainable with conventional molding techniques and machining.” Furthermore, there is not, or very little loss of material and the fact of reducing the number of steps of the manufacturing process provides considerable benefits in terms of cost. “To produce one kilogram of metal, we will use a kilo of metal and 20 pounds,” explains Franco Ongaro, an official ESA quoted by the BBC. Also an important aspect in terms of impact on the environment, says the expert: “The aerospace industry has a duty to be more green, and this new technology will help us achieve this goal.” The project, called Amaze, started in January, according to the British site. Of industrial production lines are being set up at various locations in France, Germany, Italy, Norway and the United Kingdom. In August, NASA had already fired a rocket engine nozzle which was printed in 3D. It had been manufactured by addition of successive layers of powder of a metal alloy, on the basis of a three-dimensional digital model. This piece, injecting hydrogen and oxygen in the combustion chamber has identified ten times more thrust than conventional injectors, according to the engineers of the U.S. space agency.

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