Additive Manufacturing is known to solve complex manufacturing challenges and as Saab is showcasing here, it can also be used to solve challenges in complex real-life situations. The AM team at Saab together with AMEXCI have pushed the limits once again in Additive Manufacturing. As the project has reached its most critical milestone a vision has become reality – Industrially 3D printing a replacement, outer exterior, part for a jet fighter. With the goal to develop a process for quickly fixing damages in real-life situations on the field – Air Battlefield Damage Repair (BDR)

Saab is a leading provider within the global market of products, services and solutions from military defense to civil security. Having operations all around the world, Saab is continuously developing, adapting and improving new technology to meet their customer’s changing needs and to keep people and society safe. With the support of Additive Manufacturing technologies and together with AMEXCI, Saab, already a leader in AM applications within the aeronautics industry, developed a new “uptime in the field” concept for their fighter plane, Gripen. 

A modern fighter’s objective is to secure airspace and fulfil missions against complex threats, within a broad spectrum of different scenarios. With that in mind, Gripen fighters are designed with smart and easily adaptable technical solutions to be able to dominate the battlespace for decades to come. It is crucial to ensure uptime of the aircraft and offer autonomy when operating from a Forward Operating Base (FOB) in an escalated political situation which was the goal of this project where AM serves as the enabler for in the field repairs, a solution named Battlefield Damage Repair.

Additive Manufacturing as a positive development within military operations

The idea behind this project was to see if AM would be able to solve the challenge of BDR as a strategic solution for fighter planes repair in the field, creating a temporary solution until the original parts arrive in the field. This means manufacturing of spare parts on the field to swiftly repair the planes, so they can safely complete their mission or fly to the base for further repairs. Saab initiated the project with AMEXCI in 2018 and after a rigorous material testing program to determine which material would be best for printing the plate, a certificate of air worthiness could be released. This was the final step to get green light and the fighter plane could take off with a 3D printed part attached to it.

From an Additive Manufacturing perspective, this project shows how many widespread usages these technologies have, either for solving complex manufacturing challenges or in this case being a temporary solution in real-life scenarios. This project is an important step forward within the aeronautics industry, where the uptime on the field for a plane could be drastically increased when using AM in the repair process. At AMEXCI, we see the value of AM for the aviation industry, and as the industry gets more confident with these technologies, more materials will get qualified to be used for different applications.