3-D Printing Holds Huge Promise for AFMC

Additive, or 3-D, printing is one of those technologies with “huge implications” for the Air Force’s ability to affordably sustain its forces, Air Force Materiel Command chief Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski said Tuesday at ASC15. Especially given the fact that so many USAF platforms are old, and for which parts are no longer available, 3-D could be a windfall development, she said. She noted that a B-52 component long out of production—the absence of which would ground the airplane—was digitally mapped by one of her engineers and a usable replacement printed “with a three-day delivery,” she said. Moreover, the component had more than 100 parts, but the printed version was a single part. The ramifications are that whole warehouses of parts could be eliminated, creating spares only when needed. “All you need is to keep the data file,” she said. She pegged the technology right after directed energy, autonomy, and hypersonics as the biggest “game changers” coming in the next decade.