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According to a recent article in Live Science aerospace 3d printing is key for Boeing’s entry in a competition to build a vertical takeoff and landing aircraft for DARPA that it called the Phantom Swift Military X Plane. The company has already used the additive manufacturing technique to develop subscale prototypes.
The goal is to develop an aircraft that can take off and land vertically and fly at a speed of 460 miles an hour. Initial models will be unmanned, but it is envisioned that whichever entrant wins the competition will have a pilot. The production model plane will be able to transport troops and cargos to remote locations.
The trick is to not only provide an ability to hover efficiently as well as travel at like a conventional aircraft. The Harrier, the upcoming F-35, and to a certain extent the Osprey has this capacity. But the Phantom Swift promises to be a quantum leap in the technology.
According to Defense Review, a Boeing design team was able to design, build, and fly a 17 percent scale prototype of the Phantom Swift in just 14 days, a breath taking short time when months or even years are sometimes required to take advanced aircraft from the CAD file to the flight line. They were able to use a CAD/CAM system attached to a 3d printter to perform this kind of rapid prototyping.
3d printings ability to create aerospace parts with surpassing durability and strength at a low weight have revolutionized the science of design of aircraft such as the Phantom Swift. DARPA will choose a final design in 2015 with a full scale prototype to fly in 2017 or 2018.