By Clifford Davis
Fleet Readiness Center
Southeast Public Affairs
The nozzle danced nimbly about as it dispensed a molten composite mixture behind a clear glass door. Lights flickered in the back of the machine's spacious inner chamber.
The sleek, newly installed 3D printers at Fleet Readiness Center Southeast (FRCSE) expand on the burgeoning additive manufacturing capability of the naval aviation maintenance, repair and overhaul facility.
"This new machine is capable of printing parts that are more than twice as large as our old machine, which we'll still use for the smaller pieces," said FRCSE tool designer Randy Meeker.
The facility got its first 3D printer in 2014. Since then, plant employees, engineers and supervisors have found more and more uses for its products.
"Demand for 3D-printed pieces has really taken off," said FRCSE tool designer Randy Meeker. "In just the last 15 months, I've printed more than 1,000 pieces."
Meeker has printed everything from a piece of air-duct tubing for a T-44 Pegasus trainer aircraft to a debris cover for an F414 engine that powers the F/A-18 Super Hornet. Whether for safety or performance, the new technology makes the process faster.
"Turnaround time is the major improvement," he said. "You can print a part in a matter of hours and, if it doesn't fit or is designed wrong, you can just fix the design and print another one."
In front of the machines stands a table with examples of the different pieces Meeker has designed and printed. Behind each one is a story of a problem solved or process quickened.
"If you have to manually make a form block or a drill tooling or line a machine up on holes, I can print something that will make that process faster," he said.