US defence companies are increasingly interested in additive manufacturing. Boeing is planning to start testing a propeller system for the Apache that is completely 3D printed.
Here's What We Know
The company intends to test the propeller system for the attack helicopter in the spring of 2024. The tests will be part of Boeing's efforts to reduce lead times and improve the supply chain.
The propeller assembly was the first part to be created through additive manufacturing. Boeing and ASTRO America unveiled it at the annual AUSA conference. It was printed on the world's largest 3D printer at Rock Island Arsenal in Rock Island, Illinois.
ASTRO America is a non-profit organisation that receives funding from AUSA. It received $95 million to provide engineering support to develop additive manufacturing capabilities for large-scale parts, including tank hulls.
Now back to the AH-64 Apache. The assembly took less than 9 hours to create. The printing itself took 8 hours and another 45 minutes to apply the 6000-series aluminium. It takes about a year to produce a component through conventional technology.
3D printing has a number of advantages. As you have realised, one of the strengths is speed. In addition, components created through additive manufacturing have a stronger microstructure.
When it comes to cost, traditional manufacturing can be more favourable for large volumes. If you need to create small batches, 3D printing will be cheaper. Boeing has already provided ASTRO America with a list of components for 3D printing.
Source: Defence News