MM: 3D Printing Plane Parts

In this episode, 3D printing plane parts and a game-changing solar panel.

3D Printed Flight Critical Parts

For the first time, a U.S. Navy aircraft has flown with a 3D printed, flight-critical part. A MV-22B Osprey carried out the flight on July 29 in Maryland with a titanium link and fitting assembly for the engine nacelle made using 3D additive manufacturing. The components were made using an additive printing machine that lays down layers of titanium dust that a laser or electron beam then fuses into a slice of the final part. As each layer is fused, another layer of dust is added and the process repeats until the component is complete. The U.S. military, much like the manufacturing sector, has been interested in 3D printing for decades, but until recently had been restricted to prototyping or making non-critical parts. 

The link and fitting assembly is one of four that secure an Osprey’s engine nacelle to the primary wing structure. The flight-critical components were developed at the U.S. Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Lakehurst, New Jersey and built by the Lakehurst and Penn State Applied Research Laboratory. The team noticed no difference in performance and the 3D printed part will remain on the Osprey for continued evaluation. The successful test flight is the first step toward a configuration change that will use the parts on any V-22 aircraft. 


Will this proof-of-concept propel more uses of 3D printed parts? Tell us what you think by leaving your comments below. 

A 'Game-Changing' Solar Panel

Humanity's consumption of solar energy has increased in recent years as the cost of solar panels continues to decline. But a breakthrough development by researchers at the University of Illinois-Chicago could revolutionize the way we utilize sunlight — and potentially make fossil fuels obsolete. Scientists are increasingly investigating chemical reactions called reductions, which break carbon dioxide into forms of carbon that can be burned. Those reactions generally proved to be too inefficient or expensive, but the UIC study identified a new catalyst that is much faster and cheaper than conventional metal catalysts. The result is what researchers call an "artificial leaf" — unlike current photovoltaic panels, which require solar energy to be stored in large batteries, the UIC panels are photosynthetic.

Using only sunlight for energy, the system converts carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into a mixture of hydrogen gas and carbon monoxide that can be burned directly or converted into hydrocarbon fuels. Proponents said the system can both remove a greenhouse gas from the atmosphere and produce renewable energy — at a cost comparable to a gallon of gasoline. The technology could be used in everything from large solar farms to smaller operations, and, scientists said, could eventually prove crucial to sustaining a human presence on Mars.


If this new solar cell lives up to the hype, in what ways could industry be impacted?

Tell us what you think by leaving your comments below.

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