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China uses 3D printing technology to develop new warplane

The technology has also been implemented in other major aircraft manufacturing factories of the Chinese aviation industry

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According to Global Times, China’s aviation industry has started applying world-leading 3D printing technologies on new-generation warplanes – with 3D printed parts widely used on a newly developed aircraft that made its maiden flight recently, according to a leading developer.

“We are applying 3D printing technologies on aircraft on a large scale at an engineering level, and we are in a world-leading position,” Doctor Li Xiaodan, a member of the Luo Yang Youth Commando at Shenyang Aircraft Company’s craft research institute, told China Central Television (CCTV).

With the growing demands of new types of warplane developments (in terms of weight reduction, lifespan extension, cost control, and rapid response) – previous production approaches reached a ceiling by 2013, and the Luo Yang Youth Commando was established to promote a breakthrough, reported CCTV.

The team is named after Luo Yang, the head of production of China’s J-15 carrier-based fighter jet who died of a heart attack brought on by overworking, 10 years ago, after observing the country’s first-ever aircraft carrier landing tests that featured the jet.

According to CCTV, the Luo Yang Youth Commando made innovations with no reference and completely mastered the additive manufacturing technology, and it has been using the latest equipment to produce components used by China’s new-generation warplanes.

Compared to conventional manufacturing methods, which uses rivets or welding to connect parts together, 3D printing builds an integrated part, which enjoys a higher structural strength, and also leads to a longer service life, Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times.

The Shenyang Aircraft Company, a subsidiary of the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China, is known as the cradle of Chinese fighters, having built main combat warplanes of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) from the country’s first generation J-5 fighter jet to the modern J-15 carrier-based fighter jet, and the J-16 multirole fighter jet. It also developed China’s second stealth fighter jet, the FC-31, which is available for export, and is expected to be further developed into China’s next generation carrier-based fighter jet, according to analysts.

3D printing technologies have been implemented in other major aircraft manufacturing factories of the Chinese aviation industry, reported CCTV.

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Edward Wakefield

Edward is a freelance writer and additive manufacturing enthusiast looking to make AM more accessible and understandable.

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