The U.S. Air Force will print handles for electrically heated mugs that are used on airplanes to boil water or heat coffee. As a result, the cost of repairing each broken mug will be reduced from $1,280 to about 50 cents.
The US Air Force uses electrically heated mugs on three types of American aircraft: 59 refuelers KC-10 Extender, 52 carriers C-5 Galaxy / Super Galaxy, and 222 C-17 Globemaster III. These mugs have a nichrome spiral in the bottom and a plug for connection to the onboard electrical network of the aircraft. They are used by aircraft crews to heat water for tea and to heat ready-made coffee.
The electric cookware has a plastic handle that breaks easily when dropped. After that, the mug has to be replaced, but such utensils are not mass-produced, so the military orders it in small batches. Under U.S. aviation regulations, any equipment on an aircraft that connects to the onboard network must be certified to Federal Civil Aviation Administration standards. Consequently, the production of small batches of mugs and their certification lead to a high cost of utensils. In particular, since the beginning of 2018, the US Air Force has bought 25 new mugs for $ 1,280.
Therefore, the US Air Force decided to use three-dimensional printing technology to repair broken mugs. The military is currently selecting the material that is best for printing plastic pens, but it is already known that the cost of the pen will not exceed 50 cents.
It is unknown when exactly it is planned to complete the development and certify new parts for broken dishes.
This is not the first time that the US military has relied on 3D printing – previously American ships were allowed to install 3D printed parts.
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