UK-based BAE Systems is a leading defense, security, and aerospace manufacturer, serving customers in over 40 countries. Among the company’s business groups, BAE Systems Air supports the entire life cycle of the air sector – from design, development and production, to provision of aircraft, training, support and maintenance.
But staying a leader means BAE Systems must relentlessly look for new opportunities to drive efficiencies into aircraft development programs. To that end, the company developed its “Factory of the Future” initiative. The program employs state-of-the-art manufacturing processes using Industry 4.0 techniques to produce the next generation of combat aircraft.
“Technology is advancing at a blistering pace and we must be smart and agile in the way we do things so we can adopt the latest technologies,” says Professor Andy Schofield, Manufacturing and Materials Technology Director. Among these technologies is 3D printing, a key component of the Factory of the Future. “3D printing opens up many more opportunities, not just in terms of significantly reducing cost and time, but also to encourage out-of-the-box thinking in the way we make things,” he says.
BAE Systems is serious about this. In fact, the company is looking to build the new Tempest next generation fighter aircraft with 30% 3D printed parts. This is consistent with the U.K. government’s Combat Air Strategy aimed at driving affordability into these programs. 3D printing helps BAE Systems meet that government goal by significantly reducing manufacturing costs compared to traditional methods.