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NAVAIR Innovation Lab Uses Upgraded 3D Printing Equipment to Develop Usable Items

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A team of researchers at Naval Air Systems Command’s Fleet Readiness Center East have received equipment upgrades designed to boost the development of additive manufacturing capabilities to support areas such as aviation maintenance, engineering, repair and overhaul.

NAVAIR said Friday Fleet Support Team’s Advanced Technology and Innovation Team is now using chemical resistant materials, 3D printing technology capable of reaching high temperatures and larger 3D printers built to manufacture prototypes and usable items.

Among the items developed for real-life applications is a port cover for the digital engine control unit of the AV-8B Harrier’s F402 engine.

“These small aluminum covers had a lead time of over one year. We were able to 3D print fuel-safe replacements from a chemical-resistant polymer, and the depot was able to clear that backlog within a few days, at a small fraction of the cost of sourcing the original aluminum covers,” said Randall Lewis, lead of the FRCE’s Innovation Lab.

The Innovation Lab also supports the deployment of 3D printed applications across the fleet. Lewis explained that these applications undergo initial prototyping and testing at the lab before the NAVAIR Additive Manufacturing Integrated Product Team help create a technical data package that will then be sent to Marines and sailors.