Being the largest manufacturing country in the world, China needs to raise its standards in 3D printing and the Chinese most definitely believe that 3D printing will promote the advancements in many sectors including the aircraft industry. So to materialize this concept recently China’s North Western Polytechnic University (NPU) along with Airbus has signed an agreement on investigating the possible usage of 3D printing in the commercial aviation sector. China has always been in the power game with countries like US and UK. Since US is famous for their defense system and also their air power which is considered to be far superior than others, China has decided to finally create their own advanced fighter jets.
Earlier this year, China unveiled a new fighter jet the J-25 “Ghost Bird”. This aircraft claims to be far superiors than the F-22 Raptor and the B-2 stealth bomber and it has the capacity to shoot down any US aircraft within seconds. The main idea behind making this fighter jet is to be able to control the Asian Pacific sky in the event of a conflict. Now the question is what exactly was the role of 3D printing in this? According to the latest reports, there is an indication that the edge that the Chinese have got over the US is all because of 3D printing technology which was used extensively during the production of this advanced fighter jets.
The “J-25 Ghost Bird” is faster and has a stronger stealth mode than the US fighter jets. The aircraft was manufactured by Chengdu Aviation Corporation and they used 3D printing for printing several key parts which were later implanted in the plane. Since the parts that are produced by 3D printing are lighter than the ones that are produced by the traditional method so the aircraft is much lighter and also exceptionally durable. Even the very advanced technology that has been used to enhance the already existing stealth mode can be credited to 3D printing as various parts of this were made with the help of 3D printing. The weight of the entire structure is 20 tons which is quite light as compared to other aircrafts of this genre.
In 2013, a company in China named Nanfang Ventilator Co. Ltd. developed the world’s largest 3D printer which can print 6 meters of metal part in one piece. The machine is expected to roll out of into the markets by 2014. The materials that are suitable for this printer are Carbon, Steel, low alloy Steel, Stainless Steel etc. The utilization of this printer in the aviation industry will seriously knock off the sleep from the eyes of the big shot countries of 3D printing.
Even though it may take years to actually know the capability of these fighter jets but it does make us realize the importance of government funding on new technologies such as additive manufacturing. Promoting this technology will not only boom the local markets but also enhance the image of a country in foreign soil.
These advancements will definitely trigger an alarm in the US which in turn will push harder the research to work on 3D printing which also implies that a lot of fund will be given in this sector very soon.
Image Credit: Ben Sutherland (flickr handle: bensutherland)