Zortrax, the leading company in the 3D printing sector, has announced its cooperation with Wojskowe Zakłady Lotnicze Nr 2 S.A. in Bydgoszcz, Poland, where 3D printing technology is being applied to render maintenance and modernization services of aircraft, among other things. 3D printers are also being used to upgrade Soviet-type Su-22 and MiG-29 fighter jets owned by the Armed Forces of the Republic of Poland. This process is being carried out in order to secure the conformity of the aircraft with NATO requirements.
Technology deployed to defend territory
WZL Nr 2 S.A. in Bydgoszcz is one of the largest aviation facilities in Poland; the company is of strategic importance for the Polish economy and defense, with vast experience in overhauling and maintaining strike fighters and fighter jets. One of its areas of specialization is overhauling and modernizing Su-22 and MiG-29 aircraft which, due to the accession of Poland to the North-Atlantic Treaty, require upgrading so as to comply with NATO standards. 3D printing has facilitated this process, and accelerated the modernization procedures.
Among other things, new components are fitted to the fighter jets, safeguarding the compatibility of aircraft delivered by different manufacturers cooperating with NATO. As for the Su-22 and MiG-29 aircraft, prior to the final modeling of device shapes, it needs to be verified whether they are in keeping with the existing geometry of the aircraft. This process guarantees that the final product, following initial adjustments, is ready for serial production with the use of target materials, to be fitted in a given batch of aircraft.
Civil aircraft also require upgrades and alterations to ensure their conformity with the current legislation and to apply new solutions in terms of electronic pilot and navigation devices. 3D printers are ideal for this purpose as well. The possibility to prepare a cockpit mock-up that can undergo verification allows for the detection of any unergonomic elements which would otherwise go unnoticed until the last moment if regular 2D documentation was applied.
– A 3D printer offers the opportunity for rapid prototyping – should there be any discrepancies between the geometry delivered by the manufacturer and the actual geometry, this is in fact the fastest way to dispel any doubts. If we used only the conventional methods, even with scanners or programs applied in reverse engineering, the time and cost outlays would still exceed the cost of 3D printing, said Albert Szparga (M.Sc. Eng.), expert constructor at WZL Nr 2 S.A.
Even more accurate
The M200 printer developed by Zortrax is applied in the aviation and automotive industries, as well as in other sectors that require rapid prototyping. In the third quarter of 2015, the company is going to launch a solution allowing for professional 3D printing with even greater precision. The new Inventure printer will offer the opportunity to print prototypes of a higher quality than at present, thanks in part to its closed heated chamber. A constant operating temperature, along with dedicated software and printing materials, ensures top-notch dimensional accuracy and the repeatability of printed pieces. Due to the application of a soluble reinforcing substance it can print particularly complex pieces and movable components. Moreover, the dedicated Z-Ultrat Plus material will be used for printing; this plastic has impact-resistant properties, and pieces printed with it can be applied for industrial purposes.
– With Inventure we are taking one step further towards the professionalization of 3D printing – emphasizes Rafał Tomasiak, CEO of Zortrax. – The solutions applied in the printer offer the opportunity to print with even greater accuracy and with material that allows for easy processing and ensures high impact resistance. At the same time, the price of the device along with its small size will make it affordable not only to large companies, but also to small workshops or labs. The technology currently used by Wojskowe Zakłady Lotnicze Nr 2, among others, will become even more available to professionals in every organization, irrespective of size.