Team Travis maintainers take the lead with 3D printed aircraft parts 

  • Published
  • By Chustine Minoda
  • 60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

Travis maintainers did it again! Members of the 60th Maintenance Group and various support agencies helped to design another aircraft part using 3D printers, revolutionizing the sustainability and longevity of an aircraft.

The team created a floor panel intended to be installed inside the lavatory in a C-17 Globemaster III. It is a direct replacement of the original part that is no longer available for procurement.  

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Evan LeClair, 860th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, was part of the group that initially identified the potential issue. He identified a concern with the floor panel and started working with aircraft metals technology team from the 60th Maintenance Squadron to help provide a solution.  

“To our knowledge, the Air Force doesn’t have any approved C-17 parts that are 3D printed, so this was a challenge for us to employ our new technology and get 3D printed parts on the C-17 like we did for the C-5,” said Master Sgt. March Tighe, 60th Maintenance Squadron aircraft metals technology section chief. 

Tighe shared that numerous engineers were involved in the process and were crucial in gaining approval for the project. With their team’s assistance, the unit was able to attain authorization. Additionally, LeClair’s team received valuable additional support from C-17 System Program Office, Advanced Manufacturing Programs Office, Boeing, and the Air Mobility Command C-17 Weapons System manager. 

“This innovation helps to show other bases and engineers overseeing different aircraft that it is possible to integrate additive manufacturing (3D printing) technology into our aircraft to sustain them as long as possible,” said Tighe. “This innovation also cements us as leaders in polymer part creation for the Air Force.” 

With this comprehensive set of abilities, maintenance units have the capability to produce any authorized 3D-printed component, as necessary, to repair our aircraft.  

“I am very fortunate to be a part of this groundbreaking project. The 3D printing capabilities that we possess here at Travis AFB metals technology unit allow us to innovate in ways we were not able to in the past,” said Staff Sgt. Leander Monte, 60th MXS metals technology specialist. “We can provide our jets with parts that are no longer obtainable through the supply system and reverse engineer parts to alleviate weak points that caused damage in the original.” 

The 60th MXS aircraft metals technology section was recently selected as a Centralized Air Force Manufacturing Center by the Air Force Rapid Sustainment Office board of directors. This will enable the section to potentially integrate more advanced manufacturing technology and support organizations across the Department of Defense.  

Visit the Advanced Manufacturing Program Office to learn more about how the U.S. Air Force is innovating with 3D printing and additive manufacturing.