British tested fighter with "printed" parts
According to The Daily Telegraph, citing British company, BAE Systems conducted tests of fighter Tornado GR.4 of Royal Air Force with several “printed” metal parts. In December 2013 combat aircraft took a flight from airbase in Wharton, Lancashire. The tests were completed successfully. Exact list of "printed" parts used in fighter was not specified.
Under contract with the Ministry of Defence, BAE Systems designs and 3D prints parts for fighters. There is no information what kind of technology is used. Presumably, it is Direct Metal Laser Sintering, DMLS. It is expected that use of “printed” parts in Tornado fighters will allow British Air Force to save 1.2 million pounds over four years.
BAE Systems designs and "prints" metal parts at the airbase "MAREM" in Norfolk. In particular, company printed cockpit radio cover and components in landing gear. The cost of some "printed" parts is less than one hundred pounds. Four squadrons of Tornado GR.4 are planned to be equipped with “printed” parts.
It should be noted that in recent years metal laser sintering technology has become increasingly popular in the defense industry. With DMLS technology metal powder is poured into the vessel and using laser it melts into streak free material. The process of printing is carried out in layers; at this thickness of each layer is about 20 microns. Such parts do not require any additional mechanical handling.
In November 2013 American company Solid Components decided to prove that DMLS technology is sufficiently reliable and accurate, and can be used in the manufacture of weapons. The company has “printed” working model of gun M1911 classic design, 45-calliber. Weapon consisting of 33 parts (except springs, manufactured separately), has successfully passed firing test.