Northrop Grumman Corporation and the U.S. Air Force unveiled the B-21 Raider to the world. A marvel of advanced digital manufacturing technologies across the entire spectrum, the B-21 joins the nuclear triad as a visible and flexible deterrent designed for the U.S. Air Force to meet its most complex missions. It is no secret that Northrop Grumman has put additive manufacturing at the top of its list of key enabling technologies. It is at the heart of the company’s advanced manufacturing strategy and its investments in the AM field have continued to grow, topping $70 million just for parts acquired from external suppliers.
To be clear, Northrop Grumman’s use of 3D printing dates back to long before this program and the relative scale-up of AM adoption. In fact, the company was among the very first to implement AM for rapid prototyping shortly after the technology was invented. Boris Fritz, who headed the Rapid Prototyping Lab at Northrop Grumman for 17 years, started it in 1991 and worked on the first major application with Ed Hobart: a high lift wing wind tunnel model, produced using stereolithography, which reduced the cost from $450,000 down to $12,000 (and got them the first of four world excellence awards in the early AMUG shows).
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