Chinook Flies First Flight Critical, 3D-Printed Part on Rotorcraft

August 05, 2021 in Defense, Innovation

The recently completed T408 engine demo proved that the Chinook can leverage more powerful engines. But that wasn’t the demo’s only achievement. Boeing was also able to use its advanced manufacturing expertise by 3D-printing an aluminum, flight critical part for the effort, the first time that’s been done on a rotorcraft.

The newly-built transmission housing enabled a critical test effort for the joint team, and established a path toward expanded use of additive manufacturing.

Boeing is continuing to invest in the future through cutting-edge, additive manufacturing technology to unleash possibilities and accelerate innovation that can drive quality improvements in its products, enhance efficiency and safety in its operations, and enable collaborative AM solutions for customers.

As part of the recent T408 engine demonstration effort, Boeing flew a Chinook with more powerful engines and an additively manufactured, flight critical part.

“AM allows a level of creativity in design that is not possible with traditional methods, and is being used to optimize the design of better aerospace products,” said Melissa Orme, vice president of Boeing Additive Manufacturing. “We’re continuously looking to identify opportunities where we can employ additive manufacturing to improve product performance through streamlining the vehicle, reducing its weight, and providing more durability.”

In this case, using AM technology for the gearbox housing reduced the long lead time needed with traditional manufacturing and enabled design enhancements that improved quality.

As far as the Chinook program is concerned, this effort is another example of why the aircraft remains a key part of enduring heavy-lift fleets around the world.

“The Chinook is still an innovative platform,” said Todd Harder, Chinook drive systems engineer. “We’re looking at a lot of other available areas to get us to the next 50 years of flight. There’s a lot of capability within the Chinook platform that’s going to be valuable to our customers in the future.”