Why Lockheed Martin bet big on large-scale 3D printing; with video

By Judy Quinn, Contributing Writer

Could it be possible one day to “print out” a full-size cargo plane, at a fraction of the time and cost of traditional manufacturing?

fueltankThat’s part of the vision at Lockheed Martin, the $45 billion aerospace and defense company. And Lockheed has been making some big strides. Some of Lockheed’s 3D-printed components are onboard NASA’s Juno spacecraft, which is on its way to Jupiter. And this past April, the company also unveiled several large fuel tank prototypes for a satellite (pictured at right). That project, a collaboration with partner RedEye, involved some of the largest 3D-printed parts ever made.

Lockheed certainly has good reason to push the envelope on 3D printing. After all, the company often works on a very large scale, making products like jet fighters and Atlas rockets.

Steven-Betza“Something that used to take months to manufacture can now be done in a matter of hours,” says Steve Betza, Lockheed’s Corporate Director of Advanced Manufacturing & Development (pictured at left). In Lockheed’s satellite business, 3D printing — in this case, cranking out titanium components — has led to an average reduction in cycle time of 43 percent and a reduction in cost of 48 percent.

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