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Fighter jet with 3-D-printed parts flies for first time

Tornado fighter jets containing 3-D-printed parts have flown for the first time, defense giant BAE Systems said.

Components including protective covers for cockpit radios and guards for power take-off shafts, were manufactured by the company using a 3-D printer at the Royal Air Force base in Marham, U.K.

The successful test flight could pave the way for use of the technology for other pieces of military kit.

BAE Systems Tornado jet

"You are suddenly not fixed in terms of where you have to manufacture these things. You can manufacture the products [at] whatever base you want, providing you can get a machine there, which means you can also start to support other platforms such as ships and aircraft carriers," Mike Murray, head of airframe integration at BAE Systems, said in a press release.

"And if it's feasible to get machines out on the front line, it also gives improved capability where we wouldn't traditionally have any manufacturing support."

3-D printing has taken off over the past year to create a host of products, from guns to jet engine parts.

BAE said it had already made cost savings of more than £300,000 ($491,364) since adopting the technology and expects to save the RAF more than £1.2 million between now and 2017.

Analysts said the use of 3-D printing will continue to expand, but the extent to which it could be used is unknown.


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