Swedes tested a 3D printed external hatch of their Gripen

STOCKHOLM, (BM) – Sweden is one of the most technologically advanced nations in Europe and the world, not only in the civil industry. On March 19 this year, in the sky over Linköping, Saab Gripen conducted a successful flight test with an aircraft that had been “repaired” by a printed 3D external component.

Swedes-tested-a-3D-printed-external-hatch-of-their-Gripen
Photo credit: SAAB

The test’s purpose was to check the printed component’s resistance to cold temperatures, high altitudes and determine its degree of flexibility. So far, the Swedes have used 3D printed components, but only for the interior and interior of a Gripen fighter.

Saab is trying to find a solution to quickly, cheaply, and efficiently be a “repaired” fighter during combat operations without requiring a large repair team. The company says they did not have a computer model of the component, so it had to be downloaded, scanned, and printed.

The printed component on the 3D printer is the hatch part of the fighter’s outer shell. SAAB used a nylon polymer of type PA2200 for printing.

“Post-flight initial inspection of the hatch was very positive and showed no visual structural changes had occurred from the flight. This approach’s potential means that maintenance personnel in the field can get access to individually fitted spare parts, and you no longer have to resort to emergency fixes nor cannibalize other broken-down aircraft for their parts while also further reducing the small number of parts brought on a deployment. This also reduces the operational time lost in repairs,” says Håkan Stake, contract manager for support to Gripen C / D and manager of the development project.

AMEXCI Technology Consortium

The actions result from many years of planning for the technological improvement of the Swedish air combat vehicle. In 2017, Saab became a co-founder of the AMEXCI technology consortium, which needs to improve technology.

AMEXCI is looking for new applications, manufacturing parts, equipment, and testing similar components made from non-standard materials for the military industry, such as the nylon polymer PA2200.

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Ellen Moline, senior vice president and head of Saab’s Business Area Support and Services, told the company’s website that such a test is an essential step in developing Swedish aviation. “Additive manufacturing will be a game-changer,” says Moline.

More work and tests are yet to come, Saab said. The experts of the Swedish company and the technology consortium AMEXCI are starting research to find alternatives to the nylon polymer PA2200, which would show even better performance in the air and at low temperatures.

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