Revolutionizing Air Force Maintenance with 3D Printed Aircraft Parts

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Travis Air Force Base in California recently made a significant leap in aircraft maintenance by developing a 3D printed floor panel for the C-17 Globemaster III. This novel panel, which replaces an outdated part, underlines the practical usability of 3D printing in aerospace engineering. The pioneering project was overseen by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Evan LeClair from the 860th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, in cooperation with the 60th Maintenance Squadron’s aircraft metals technology cohort.

60th Squadron’s Master Sgt. March Tighe emphasized the complexity of incorporating 3D printed components into C-17, a feat previously accomplished only for the C-5 aircraft. The comprehensive process required the participation of an army of engineers and collaborative synergy with a host of organizations. These include the C-17 System Program Office, Advanced Manufacturing Programs Office, Boeing, as well as the Air Mobility Command C-17 Weapon System manager.

The accomplishment is not just a technological landmark but also a strategic evolution in aircraft maintenance. It validates the possibility of utilizing additive manufacturing to prolong aircraft lifespan. The Travis AFB metals technology squadron, now esteemed for its polymer part production prowess, has the ability to reverse-engineer unavailable elements, thus addressing and rectifying deficits in original components.

The 60th MXS aircraft metals technology section has earned the distinction of being a Centralized Air Force Manufacturing Center, setting the stage for potential advancements in manufacturing technologies and expanded support across the Department of Defense. This progression indicates a growing dependency on additive manufacturing in military aircraft maintenance, opening a window into potential future scenarios in aerospace engineering and defense logistics.


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