The U.S. Air Force’s Rapid Sustainment Office (RSO) has installed seventeen additively manufactured parts, including both polymer and metal AM components, on a C-5 Super Galaxy aircraft. Working with engineers at the C-5 Program Office, Air Mobility Command, and the 436th Airlift Wing which operates the aircraft, the RSO installed a variety of parts including new aluminium seal retention handles, redesigned to take advantage of the benefits of Additive Manufacturing.
Engineers stated that they had redesigned the handles to be more ergonomically friendly, lighter weight and more robust to installation variation. They were able to reduce build time and eliminate the two tone, multi-coat paint scheme that has been used since the inception of the aircraft, continuing to reduce costs.
A number of parts were also installed in the cabin and crew bunk areas of the plane, including overhead panels, reading and emergency light covers, window reveals and gasper panels.
“It is innovative ideas such as these that continue to drive down sustainment costs, leading to improved weapon system readiness,” stated Eddie Preston, a senior materials engineer for the RSO. “If you can imagine sitting on a commercial aircraft, everything around you including parts of the seat you are sitting in, we can print.”
Preston added that many of the parts that were replaced were not available for purchase or had long lead times. He said that using AM, parts “may only take a couple of days to print” versus the weeks, months or even years it could take to acquire parts by traditional measures.
In the near future, the C-5 Program Office and RSO teams will reportedly install more than twenty additional metal and polymer additively manufactured components on the aircraft, with metal components set to be made from titanium and other high strength alloys. As the Air Force’s Additive Manufacturing ‘library’ of parts continues to grow, it expects the cost benefits offered by the technology to increase.
The RSO estimates that future field production of these seventeen parts alone, could save tens of thousands of dollars, while improving part performance and continuing to improve weapon system readiness.