By THERESA HITCHENS, Breaking Defense
AFA 2019: It may sound boring, but maintenance of military aircraft is a big deal — and one that the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (LCMC) intends to improve, in part via 3D printing. Former Defense Secretary Mattis issued a fiat that all fighters had to hit 80 percent readiness levels and the Air Force is struggling to get there. Breaking D’s own Theresa Hitchens talks with Kyle Singer, a sustainment engineer with the University of Dayton Research Institute. The institute is working with LCMC to figure out how to best use and integrate additive manufacturing into its depots and sustainment processes.
Right now, LCMC limits its efforts to certify 3D printed aircraft parts to those that are not “flight critical” — that is, to pieces like avionics cooling ducts for C-17 transport aircraft and (somewhat hilariously but nonetheless important) toilet covers for long-haul C-5 Galaxy transport planes. Moreover, LCMC is working to ensure that far-flung depots eventually can print their own parts — with a recent first being Travis AFB’s using their brand, spanking new laser printer to print those toilet seat covers built of a new-fangled polymer from it’s own brand new printer.