The EASA has granted approval to BAE Systems Regional Aircraft for a BAe 146 part manufactured using 3-D printing (“additive manufacture”) technology. The part is a plastic breather pipe that prevents fogging of cabin windows. The pipes were originally made by injection molding in plastic but the tooling is no longer available. Making new tooling would have cost almost $23,000 and taken several months, followed by two more months to produce the parts, according to BAE.
To find an alternative solution, Philip Beard, structures support manager at BAE Systems Regional Aircraft, contacted the central engineering team at the BAE Systems Military Air & Information business at Warton, Lancashire, who are experimenting with 3-D printing and building their knowledge of the technology. “Within two weeks our Warton colleagues had produced examples of the part that we used for certification. Then they introduced us to a commercial 3-D printing supplier that was able to produce the required quantity for us,” he said. The new process saves time, eliminates tooling cost and yields a product that costs 60 percent less than the original, he added.