Gloucestershire-based global engineering technologies company, Renishaw, recently became a delivery partner to Royal Air Force Wittering Squadron, Cambridgeshire, supplying a RenAM 500Q Flex metal additive manufacturing (AM) machine to help improve its component manufacturing capabilities.
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The squadron will use the new system, along with other 3D printing and scanning equipment, at its new Hilda B Hewlett Centre for Innovation. The system will enable the RAF to produce custom-built structural aircraft components for rapid repairs and its arrival marks the Force’s first steps into advanced component manufacturing.
The Hilda B Hewlett Centre for Innovation is part of the No 71 Inspection and Repair Squadron, which is based at RAF Wittering. Its main role is to repair damaged structures on UK fixed-wing military aircraft and provide specialist inspection capabilities.
The Squadron has its own designers that provide specialist repairs, and the RenAM 500Q Flex will enable it to reproduce aircraft components with microscopic precision for defence applications that require the highest accuracy.
Following the opening of the new facility, Renishaw supplied the RenAM 500Q Flex, which produces high-quality parts with added flexibility when changing powder. It features four lasers that address the entire powder bed, as well as automated powder recycling capabilities and a compact footprint. These capabilities enable engineers at the facility to create the highly accurate components required in this industry, while delivering significant savings for metal component volume production.
The Squadron’s engineers will use it alongside several new systems, including a Nikon HTX 540 CT scanner and other AM systems.
“The new Centre really is the heart of RAF innovation, and introducing additive manufacturing could one day enable the RAF to create and repair vital components that will keep their planes in the sky,” explained Stephen Crownshaw, AM business manager EMEA at Renishaw. “Being part of the Air Force’s new journey into advanced component manufacturing is a glowing endorsement of the accuracy and quality of Renishaw’s product offering, and we look forward to working with RAF Wittering as it develops the new facility and grows its AM capabilities.”
“One day the Royal Air Force could manufacture custom-built structural aircraft components for rapid aircraft repairs,” added Allen Auchterlonie, commanding officer for No 71 (IR) Squadron. “This technology has endless possibilities in supporting and delivering air power and the opening of this facility is a landmark in this exciting journey.”
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