PwC Analysis: Data for the life of the aircraft: The commercial ecosystem

The impact for airlines alone is potentially massive. Having a more accurate view of a plane’s configuration and maintenance history could help reduce costs and losses related to downtime and unplanned maintenance, boost the value of planes in the secondary market and at the end of leases, and improve worker productivity. PwC analysis has found that efficiency gains enabled by blockchain could increase industry revenue by as much as 4%, or US $40bn, while cutting MRO costs by about 5%, or US $3.5bn.

The transformative potential of blockchain is driving broad interest in the technology across all sectors. More than eight in ten executives say their company has at least some involvement with blockchain. And we know that some aerospace leaders are already starting to think about it. Nearly a quarter of aerospace and defence executives who participated in PwC’s fall 2018 Digital Trust Insights Survey (24%) said blockchain was critical to all their lines of business, compared with 20% for all respondents across sectors.

Source: PwC Analysis

Source: Stratasys

3D Printing and Blockchain are Transforming Military Supply Chains

Between February and the beginning of March 2019, a CTMA project Adapting Blockchain Technology for Additive Manufacturing was successfully demonstrated at five depots.

  • Marine Corps Fabrication Lab at Twenty-Nine Palms, CA
  • AMRDEC at Corpus Christi, TX
  • Fleet Readiness Center Southwest, CA
  • Naval Undersea Warfare Center, Keyport, WA
  • Tinker Air Force Base, OK

With industry participant’s enabling platform employing Blockchain, security of technical data packages used in additive manufactured parts can be assured.

A distributed, Blockchain-based transaction system provided per-part provenance and traceability across a distributed network. Blockchain, the technology behind cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, permits each transaction of record to be recorded on a shared, distributed ledger where authorized parties can query transactions for authorization and traceability of provenance back to source requirements.

This project demonstrated the transformative nature of Blockchain and 3d printing in traditional military supply chains. One polymer and one metal part printed at each demonstration site. Additionally demonstrated were: counterfeit mitigation, smart contract execution, part provenance to validate the process/build integrity and ledger auditability, followed by a build analysis against the design.

Demonstrated at the five locations, this project confirmed that we could ensure the digital asset wasn’t manipulated, the source was valid, only the permitted quantity was made, and the intellectual property ownership was protected.

Other recent examples of 3d Printing in the US Military:

Earlier this year, the USAF installed a metallic 3D printed part on an operational F-22.

The 3D aircraft printed part was installed by 574th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron maintainers during depot maintenance at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

574th AMXS director Robert Lewin said: “One of the most difficult things to overcome in the F-22 community, because of the small fleet size, is the availability of additional parts to support the aircraft.”

The printed part is designed to replace a corrosion-prone aluminium component in the kick panel assembly of the cockpit. With the use of 3D printing, maintainers can now acquire replacement parts within short notice, saving money and aircraft maintenance time.

And in this story published by defenceWeb on August 21, 2019, the USAF use of 3D printing to produce non-structural aircraft parts was highlighted:

The United States Air Force’s 60th Maintenance Squadron has become the first field unit in the Air Force to be certified with an industrial-sized 3D printer that is authorized to produce non-structural aircraft parts.

The US Air Force (USAF) this week said the Stratasys F900 3D printer, which is capable of printing plastic parts up to 91x60x91 cm (36-by-24-by-36 inches), uses a material called Ultem 9085 that is more flexible, dense and stronger than typical plastic.

The printer, which is certified by the Federal Aviation Administration and the Air Force Advanced Technology and Training Center, offers new opportunities to create needed parts while saving time and money, the Air Force said.

“It brings us a capability that we’ve never had before,” said Master Sgt. John Higgs, 60th MXS aircraft metals technology section chief. “There’s so many possibilities available to us right now. We’re just scratching the surface.”

Technicians are able to download blueprints from an online database that the University of Dayton Research Institute has approved.

“The Joint Engineering Data Management Information Control System is where we go to download already approved blueprints,” Higgs said. “Now, the University of Dayton Research Institute is working with the engineers to get those parts they developed into JEDMICS.”

The first approved project was printed on the Stratasys F900 Aug. 12 and will replace latrine covers on the C-5M Super Galaxy. Typically, parts that don’t keep the aircraft from performing their mission don’t have as high as a priority for replacement.

“The latrine covers we just printed usually take about a year from the time they’ve been ordered to the time they’ve been delivered,” Higgs said. “We printed two of the covers in 73 hours.”

Getting the printer operational was no easy task. It took eight months to get the system fully operational.

“There were facility requirements that had to be met, and then installation and certification processes to complete,” Higgs said. “After, we needed to decide who could operate the printer, then have a UDRI instructor certify them.”

Three members from the 60th MXS were chosen to be the first technicians trained in the Air Force for the initial certification. One of them, Tech. Sgt. Rogelio Lopez, 60th MXS assistant aircraft metals technology section chief, has been with the project since its inception.

“UDRI has not trained or certified anyone else at the field level except the three of us here at Travis Air Force Base,” Lopez said. “Now that we’re signed off on our training records, we’re the only ones who can operate, maintain and print on the Stratasys F900.”

Now with parts in production, all the hard work is paying off. There’s a new sense of urgency within the organization.

“It’s exciting because the Air Force is implementing new technology at the field level,” Lopez said. “The Air Force continues to encourage Airmen to be innovative by finding new ways to streamline processes and save resources.”

And since Travis AFB is the only field unit that is currently operational, requests from outside the organization are already coming in.

“We already have a list from the Air Force level to help them print and to backfill some supplies,” Higgs said. “This will ensure other bases can replace items sooner than expected with our help.”

Ultimately, the maintenance shop wants to use the printer for more than just aircraft parts.

“We have the capability to print parts on a production scale for a lot more customers,” Higgs said. “The overall goal is to generate products for every organization to support whatever needs they may have.”