The Indian Air Force (IAF) is aggressive looking at 3D-printing technology for the production of hard-to-find spare parts for legacy equipment and according to recent tenders issued to the Indian vendors who have pioneered in 3D-printing technology in defense sectors and were keen on entering components, manufacturing will start the supply of a set of components that air force regularly requires but presently imports it’s from OEMs at a hefty cost.

When an OEM Country air force starts retiring jet it has supplied to its export market, then it becomes very difficult to keep the supply of spares and components intact when the supply chain for the same jet has moved on to manufacturing other programs, said the former air force engineer to he also added that sometimes they agree to restart manufacturing only if IAF agrees for minimum order quantity that sometimes tends to be a costly affair. It becomes more difficult when IAF is the sole operator of the platform world over like in the case of Jaguar Strike aircraft.

IAF is looking at 3D-printing technology not only for legacy jets that are not operational elsewhere but also for jets that are operational but cost a lot to maintain. In the first tender, IAF is looking at 3D Printed flat washers for the Snecma M53 jet engine for the Mirage 2000-5 fighter. flat washers are minor components but it needs to be of certain quality and grade that is very difficult to replicate due to which such minor components had to be procured from French OEM at exorbitant rates, but local vendors have demonstrated that such components can be 3D printed in India at fraction of the cost with great detail in quality and grade.

IAF is also looking at using 3D-printing technology to print sections of aircraft’s airframe components that are either damaged or have cracked due to aging, instead of procuring retired jets from elsewhere and use them for cannibalization that is also often a costly affair. IAF also planning to use 3D-printing technology for much more advanced components printing like that for the aircraft’s engine with help of HAL and GTRE, who have already started using 3D-printing technology for manufacturing some of the engine components for the Kaveri engine program.

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