6 Jan 2014

RAF jets flown with 3D printed parts

7:51 am on 6 January 2014

RAF Tornado fighter jets have flown with parts made using 3D printing technology.

BAE Systems said the metal components were used in test flights from its airfield at Warton, Lancashire, late last month.

The parts include protective covers for cockpit radios and guards for power take-off shafts.

The BBC reports it is hoped the technology could cut the RAF's maintenance and service bill by over £1.2 million over the next four years.

BAE engineers are producing the parts for four squadrons of Tornado GR4 aircraft at RAF Marham in Norfolk - with some parts costing less than £100.

3D printing works by building layer upon layer of material to build complex solid objects.

In September, NASA announced that it plans to send a 3D printer into space in 2014 to help astronauts manufacture spare parts and tools in zero gravity.