The Air Force said Thursday that it is using three-dimensional (3D) printing technology to produce parts for F-15K fighter jet engines.
It said it has used 3D printers that are capable of duplicating metal products in ready-to-use form since January to produce 14 cover plates for high-pressure turbines mounted on F110-GE-129 engines, which power the F-15K Strike Eagles that have been in operation since 2005.
With the growing adoption of 3D printing technology in various industries, the Air Force has sought to capitalize on such cutting-edge technology to save costs and time in obtaining aircraft components.
A number of those components are expensive, imported, take time to deliver and are often out of stock, according to officials.
The Air Force first decided to use 3D printers and supply cover plates for the F-15Ks after finding out in September 2012 that some of them were worn out.
The Air Force worked with Insstek Inc., a metal component manufacturer in Daejeon, for the last two years to duplicate the cover plates.
General Electric (GE), the U.S manufacturer which builds the F110-GE-129 engines, certified the quality of the duplicates, according to military officials.
An authentic cover plate costs 40 million won ($34,000) and takes an average of 40 days to be delivered.
“We were able to save 370 million won by using 3D printers,” an official said. “Moreover, it only took 20 days to produce the duplicates.”
The Air Force said it has been adopting 3D printing technology further to produce 13 other components, adding that it is estimated to save 130 million won from its budget per year.
It also said it is expected to save up to 15 months in getting its components on time.