Essentium has announced that the 101st Air Refueling Wing (ARW), Maine Air National Guard is using High-Speed Extrusion (HSE) 3D Printing technology and Essentium PCTG for printed flight control repair training aids to help maintain proficiency for traditional guardsmen.
The 101st ARW is said to have selected Essentium's HSE platform for its speed, accuracy and low-cost material products. Harnessing this capability, the fully trained groundsmen are aiming to increase the lifespan of aircraft parts, while also reducing instances of downed aircraft.
Since installing the Essentium HSE 180 ST printer, 101st ARW engineers have created a training aid for the outboard aileron balance tab in one weekend. This part is said to be a critical flight control component with aircraft attachment points that are prone to wear. To repair them, the guardsmen machined new holes, installed bushings, inspected for accuracies, and installed them to return the outboard aileron balance tab to original factory specifications.
Spare aileron balance tabs are typically difficult to maintain for several reasons. These parts are usually reserved for real-world repair needs, while it can also be difficult to retain experienced professionals in aileron balance tabs. An incorrect repair can permanently destroy an aircraft part, meaning a further repair would be required, and the aircraft could be downed if there isn't an immediate replacement ready to be installed.
For an effective training aid, the part must maintain its dimension when aluminium components are pressed into it. The combination of the HSE 180 ST and Essentium PCTG material delivered the required surface finish, impact strength and low cost to make the additive manufacture of this part viable. Using the printed scale model of the part, guardsmen can harness the technical data that applies to the component to repair it, giving them quicker access to these rare parts.
“For this application, we chose Essentium over other printers because it can print faster and more accurately with external dimensions. The material cost is also relatively less,” said Master Sgt. Jason Howes. “You can’t put a value on having proficiently trained guardsmen. The confidence they get from putting their hands on the product, understanding what the result will look like, and gaining muscle memory is simply invaluable.”
Blake Teipel, Ph.D., CEO, Essentium added: “This valuable tool has also caught the attention of other local military components, such as the Maine Army National Guard, who began requesting similar training aids for their rotary aircraft. We’re excited that the Essentium HSE is currently being used as a cross-functional force multiplier that can shape the future of readiness across the joint force.”
Essentium has been working in the defence space for a number of years having signed a four-year contract with the US Air Force in 2020 and demonstrated the capability of additive manufacturing to enhance the U.S Navy’s Maintenance Efficiency at REPTX earlier this year. The company also recently told TCT about its intention to launch an on-demand parts service to supplement its hardware and materials offering.