DSTA, Airbus, and Boeing to use additive manufacturing for aircraft maintenance

The Defense Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) of Singapore has signed separate agreements with aerospace industry leaders Airbus and Boeing to integrate additive manufacturing into military aircraft maintenance.

Although the finer details of these agreements remain confidential, the DSTA has revealed that it will focus on the reduction of personnel requirements with the development of new technological processes.

Both agreements were signed at the Singapore Defence Technology Summit, on June 27.

The Airbus agreement

Airbus, who installed the first 3D printed titanium bracket on an in-series production A350 XWB aircraft, has outlined several potential areas of collaboration with the DSTA using digital technologies. This includes 3D printing, augmented and virtual reality (VR), data analytics and maintenance information systems which will all support the operations of the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF)’s aircraft.

The DSTA has previously worked with Airbus under a similar framework to customize the Airbus A330 MRTT tankers. As a result of this collaboration, the tanker aircraft – which is responsible for refueling other in-flight aircraft – can successfully operate with just three people as opposed to the traditional four.

The RSAF has ordered of six of the modified Airbus A330 MRTT tankers.

Airbus A330 MRTT tankers refuelling other aircrafts. Photo via the Indian Defence Review.
Airbus A330 MRTT tankers refueling a fighter jet. Photo via the Indian Defence Review.

The Boeing Agreement

A second agreement is with Boeing, the company behind the 787 Dreamliner . The Dreamliner is the first commercial aircraft to fly with certified additive-manufactured titanium parts in structural applications.

The DSTA agreement will commence the development of an information management tool designed to provide data analytics for the Boeing F-15SG Strike Eagle fighters and the RSAF’s AH-64D Apache attack helicopters.

The results from the co-developed information management tool will also provide predictive algorithms for smarter maintenance and operations, according to Boeing.

“Under this agreement, we will jointly develop an information management tool leveraging data analytics to identify trends and insights on aircraft performance. This signifies our emphasis on tapping digital technologies and working closely with the industry to co-develop new capabilities,” commented Tan Peng Yam, Chief Executive of the DSTA.

The RSAF currently has 40 F-15SG Strike Eagles and 19 Apaches, according to the Aviation Week Intelligence Network database.

The first 3D printed, structurally supportive, titanium part to be used on Boeing 787 Dreamliner reached FAA Approval in February 2017 after year in development. Photo via Norsk Titanium
The first 3D printed, structurally supportive, titanium part to be used on Boeing 787 Dreamliner reached FAA Approval in February 2017 after years in development. Photo via Norsk Titanium

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Featured image shows the Royal Singapore Air Force aircrft flying alongside an Indian Air Force aircraft and during joint military training. Photo via Radar Militer.