Singapore to be involved in trial of 3D-printed aircraft parts

3D printing of spare parts will be on trial for Singapore’s upcoming fleet of for A-330 Multi Role Tanker Transport aircrafts, aeronautics company Airbus announced, on July 19, 2018.
3D printing of spare parts will be on trial for Singapore’s upcoming fleet of for A-330 Multi Role Tanker Transport aircrafts, aeronautics company Airbus announced, on July 19, 2018. PHOTO: AIRBUS

Aircraft manufacturers are starting to use 3D printing for aircraft spare parts and a trial here will involve Singapore's new fleet of A-330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (A-330 MRTT) aircraft, aeronautics company Airbus announced yesterday.

It is the first initiative under Airbus and Singapore's Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) digital technology collaboration, which was signed at the inaugural Singapore Defence Technology Summit on June 27.

Airbus' website indicates Singapore has ordered six A-330 MRTT tankers, an aerial refuelling aircraft.

Airbus Defence and Space will support DSTA in designing and certifying parts produced by additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, for the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) aircraft, the first of which will be delivered in the coming months. A DSTA spokesman said the aircraft is set to make its public debut at the RSAF50 parade on Sept 1.

On its website, Airbus said 3D-printing enables small-batch manufacturing of replacement parts that is quicker and less costly. Head of military aircraft services at Airbus Defence and Space Stephan Miegel said: "It is absolutely clear that digitisation represents the future of military aircraft services and we are now at a point where we can begin to explore the most promising techniques on operational fleets."

He said another area of collaboration agreed on by Airbus and DSTA is to use data analytics to predict when equipment will need maintenance.

The collaboration will add on to the development of Airbus' new SmartForce suite of maintenance data analytics, he said.

This SmartForce system, launched on Monday, incorporates on-site private data clouds, and data gathered can be used to enhance operational safety, boost fleet availability and reduce maintenance support costs.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 20, 2018, with the headline 'Singapore to be involved in trial of 3D-printed aircraft parts'. Print Edition | Subscribe