BAE Systems, a UK-based defense, security and aerospace leader, is increasing its adoption of additive manufacturing at its site in Samlesbury with the aim of reducing costs and increasing production agility. Specifically, the company has acquired its fourth F900 3D printer, Stratasys‘ most robust FDM system with a large-scale capacity.
The newly installed system will, like BAE Systems’ other F900 machines, run round the clock, becoming a critical component in BAE Systems’ “Factory of the Future” initiative. Its Samlesbury manufacturing facility is pushing its manufacturing strategy ahead by combining the latest technologies and connected processes for a seamless production process. The Factory of the Future is leveraging the four Stratasys systems to produce a range of parts for aircraft ground equipment operations, including design verification prototypes, manufacturing tools, space models and end-use parts.
“Our Factory of the Future programme is all about driving the future of fighter aircraft production with disruptive technologies and we’re working closely with our suppliers and wider industry to meet the challenges the UK Government has set out to us,” stated Greg Flanagan, Additive Manufacturing Operations Lead, BAE Systems Air. “Stratasys FDM additive manufacturing plays an important role in this initiative, as it helps us meet our overall company objectives to reduce costs and time-to-market.”
BAE Systems has already experienced the advantages of additive manufacturing: the technology has led to more flexible production as well as reduced costs and faster lead times. The installation of the fourth industrial F900 system – purchased through 3D printing reseller Laser Lines – will enable it to further exploit these advantages as well as to work with new materials for tooling applications, including carbon-fiber-filled FDM Nylon 12CF.
“This technology allows us to innovate many of our traditional manufacturing processes,” said Flanagan. “We can rapidly 3D print one-off parts for new products, replace tools more easily and cost-effectively, and maintain production operations when hardware is delayed. If supply chains become disrupted, having this production power in-house also enables us to be more agile as a business and continue to best serve the needs of our customers.”
BAE Systems’ production processes are evolving thanks to the adoption of 3D printing: the company has identified several applications where high-performance AM offers advantages over conventional production methods. For instance, it has successfully used the F900 to 3D print cockpit floors for the Typhoon fighter aircraft made from ABS or ASA. The 3D printed thermoplastic covers are much faster to produce than conventional ones and are more lightweight, making them easier to move and install. BAE Systems has also taken the opportunity to print the covers red, the color of “remove before flight” parts.
“BAE System’s Factory of the Future programme is a prime example of innovative companies seeking to exploit the latest advanced manufacturing technologies and processes to enhance traditional production as we know it,” added Yann Rageul, Director Manufacturing Solutions EMEA at Stratasys. “We continue to collaborate closely with the team at BAE to explore new solutions that further expand the application use of additive manufacturing within production – which will help to address and solve the company’s current and future manufacturing challenges.”
Last year, Stratasys and BAE Systems strengthened their existing partnership for the latter’s Land, Maritime and Air sectors.