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Flying high.

UK-based BAE Systems is a leading defense, security, and aerospace manufacturer, serving customers in over 40 countries. Among the company’s business groups, BAE Systems Air supports client requirements across the whole life cycle of the air sector - from design, development and production, to provision of aircraft, training, support and maintenance. The company has been using additive manufacturing over several years to support its “Factory of the Future” initiative, designed to leverage disruptive technologies and pave the way for future military aircraft production and maintenance operations. As a key pillar of this concept, BAE Systems has deployed four large-scale industrial-grade Stratasys F900™ 3D printers at its Samlesbury site to revolutionize manufacturing operations, the first being installed in 2014. Supplied through Stratasys’ local partner, Laser Lines, this battery of FDM®-based 3D printers runs around the clock and is used across aircraft ground equipment operations for a wide range of applications. These span space models and design verification prototypes, tools to support manufacturing, and final production parts. “Our Factory of the Future program is all about driving the future of combat aircraft production with disruptive technologies. Stratasys FDM additive manufacturing plays an important role in this initiative, as it helps us meet our overall company objectives to reduce costs and timeto-market for new products,” explained Greg Flanagan, Additive Manufacturing Operations Lead, BAE Systems Air. “We installed our latest F900 3D printer towards the end of last year, mainly to bolster our capacity as we increase our use of FDM technology, but also because of the ongoing material advances that give us an advantage when it comes to tooling applications,” he added.
“Stratasys FDM additive manufacturing allows us to transform many of our traditional manufacturing processes, resulting in reduced costs and faster time-to-market for new products.”
Greg Flanagan, additive manufacturing operations lead, BAE Systems
Greg Flanagan, pictured with a 3D printed Typhoon cockpit floor cover, says that Stratasys FDM additive manufacturing helps BAE Systems meet its overall company objectives to reduce costs and time-to-market.
Greg Flanagan, pictured with a 3D printed Typhoon cockpit floor cover, says that Stratasys FDM additive manufacturing helps BAE Systems meet its overall company objectives to reduce costs and time-to-market.

Reduced tooling lead times and costs.

A key challenge for BAE Systems across its demonstrator programs or within future product development is the high non-recurring cost of aircraft tooling. However, according to Flanagan, the company found that FDM technology offers an opportunity to reduce those costs for new products. This is especially true with items such as drill tools, repair tools and other development tools that are often needed in small numbers. “Stratasys FDM additive manufacturing allows us to transform many of our traditional manufacturing processes, resulting in reduced costs and faster time-to-market for new products,” he said. “Our F900 3D printers are delivering to our needs even when we’re asleep in our beds, so we’re witnessing some significant benefits,” he added. “When using these machines across our operations, we’re enjoying significantly reduced costs and lead times compared to those of traditional manufacturing methods.” The range of high-performance thermoplastics available on the F900 enables the company to replace traditionally manufactured – typically metal – tools with 3D printed alternatives. The company predominantly uses tough engineering plastics such as ASA and ABS, but is also exploring the use of carbon-fiber materials like FDM® Nylon 12CF to meet its tooling requirements.
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