October 28, 2020

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U.S. Army disassembles UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter to manufacture spare parts with the 3D printer in the future

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The U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command (AMCOM) and the National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) at Wichita State University (WSU) are creating a comprehensive virtual 3D model of a UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter that has been in service since 1979. The helicopter is completely dismantled, disassembled into its individual parts and then scanned with a 3D scanner, as reported in a press release from AMCOM. The U.S. Army create a digital twin and find an efficient way to manufacture difficult-to-obtain components with 3D printing in the future. AMCOM commander Maj. Gen. Todd Royar sees this as a new door for the maintenance and upkeep of aviation.

2D construction drawings and 3D models

The U.S. Army often only has one source of supply for their vehicle parts. This leads to problems in the supply chain and in the procurement of certain parts. 2D engineering drawings can be tedious to interpret and produce for potential manufacturers. Sikorsky, the original manufacturer, supports the project to turn 3D drawings into 3D models. The UH-60 model was also called Alpha and has been developed over the decades with models like Lima and Mike. Lima has not been produced for 15 years. Royar explains that 3D printing can help provide spare parts in small volumes or quantities. At the same time, operating and maintenance costs are reduced.

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