The US Naval Air Systems Command (Navair) has conducted a successful demonstration of a flight critical aircraft component, which was built using additive manufacturing (AM) techniques.

For the test flight, which was performed using the standard V-22 flight performance envelope, a MV-22B Osprey aircraft was outfitted with a titanium, 3D printed link and fitting assembly for the engine nacelle.

This link and fitting assembly is one of four components that are used to secure a V-22 Osprey aircraft engine’s nacelle to the primary wing structure.

"The flight today is a great first step toward using AM wherever and whenever we need to."

Scheduled to remain on the aircraft for continued evaluation, the metal link and fitting assembly that were used during the test were printed at the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Lakehurst, New Jersey.

AM technique is a process by which digital 3D design data is used to build components in layers of metal, plastic and other materials.

AM Integrated Product Team lead Liz McMichael said: "The flight today is a great first step toward using AM wherever and whenever we need to.

“It will revolutionise how we repair our aircraft and develop and field new capabilities AM is a game changer.

"In the last 18 months, we have started to crack the code on using AM safely. We will be working with V-22 to go from this first flight demonstration to a formal configuration change to use these parts on any V-22 aircraft."

Before conducting this flight demonstration, multiple V-22 components manufactured by Lakehurst and Penn State Applied Research Laboratory were tested at Patuxent River to validate their performance.

Six additional safety-critical parts have been identified for manufacture, of which three parts will be composed of titanium, while the other three will be of stainless steel.

These parts will be tested over the next year for three US Marine Corps rotorcraft platforms, the V-22, H-1 and CH-53K.

Image: MV-22B Osprey hovers during the flight demonstration. Photo: courtesy of US Navy photo/Released.