3D Printing Has a Major Scope in the Future of Gripen Production
When a fighter aircraft gets damaged during a mission or a battle, the solution is usually to take it back to the base for repair. But with additive manufacturing, most commonly known as 3D printing, the crew members can produce spare parts on the spot allowing the fighter to get back on track as quickly as possible.
Many Saab officials like Lisa Åbom, Mathias Åhlin, and recently Ellen Molin have confirmed that Gripen production will be headed more towards 3D printing or additive manufacturing in the future. In fact, 3D printing is not an entirely new area for Saab or Gripen. “3D printed materials are already being tested and evaluated in the production of Gripen, however, we will see a more vigorous use of it in the future,” said Ellen Molin, Head of Business Area, Support & Services, Saab, at the recently held Gripen Seminar.
In past, Lisa Åbom, Chief Technology Officer of Saab Aeronautics also said that several articles have already been produced using 3D printing in the Gripen E. “What is really cool about 3D printing is that you can find ways to optimize the design to take away some weight from certain structure parts. And it gets even more exciting when you can add functionalities to the structures and materials. That is when we can really start to use the technology in the future,” she said.
Mathias Åhlin, a product manager at Saab for Gripen Support, has been working with his colleagues on the prospects and potentiality of 3D printing for Gripen C/D. It was one of Åhlin’s colleagues, Håkan Stake who actually came up with the idea to develop 3D spare parts for Gripen C/D initially.
“Håkan and I are working quite closely on this project, using battle damage repair in a war scenario as a test case. We have the luxury of working in an organisation that gives us the time to develop an innovation. It’s really quite unique,” Åhlin explains.
Åhlin and his team believe there is great future potential for the technology and that the possibilities for 3D printing are endless. Saab has always taken inspiration from different areas of technology of the present and future. Exploring a revolutionary technology like 3D printing can revolutionize how Saab works with support, and in the battlefield as well.
The whole concept of 3d printing where you can print spare parts in material like plastic and metal does sound futuristic at the moment. And printing Gripen parts will take some time to move beyond evaluation stage, but the process has very much begun already.
“It is quite possible that we may start using 3D printed materials as an integral part of the Gripen instead of just using it as spare parts for a short duration,” said Ellen Molin.