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RAG builds aircraft microvanes using AM for Metro Aerospace

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Rapid Application Group (RAG) announced a manufacturing agreement with Metro Aerospace for the provision of FAA-certified parts using Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) additive manufacturing. Metro Aerospace, based in Dallas TX, delivers innovative microvanes that reduce drag and improve fuel efficiency in both military and civilian aircraft and was the first company to achieve FAA Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) for 3D printed parts designed for use on an aircraft exterior.

Installed microvanes
Installed microvanes

RAG, a defense contract parts supplier, has been building a reputation for innovative, cost-effective, and fast provision of mission-critical parts in aerospace and defense manufacturing by applying both traditional as well as additive manufacturing methodologies. The company has more than seven different additive manufacturing technologies enabling the team to apply the best solutions to each challenge.

“Given the rigorous standards and the extreme operating conditions for the Microvanes, SLS with glass-filled materials are the only realistic choice,” said Jason Dickman, COO, Rapid Application Group. “To meet the rigorous manufacturing requirements we qualified our sPro 60 HD-HS SLS platforms and Duraform GF materials, from 3D Systems, achieving the First Article Inspection Reports (FAIR) and traceability to meet FAA regulations within weeks.”

Microvanes were originally developed and patented by Lockheed Martin, and Metro holds the exclusive global license for the production, sale and distribution of the product. Metro’s mission is to deliver new and innovative ways to improve aircraft performance through advanced manufacturing and state-of-the-art materials.

3D printed microvane
A 3D printed microvane

Microvanes are now in use on cargo aircraft across five continents and deliver up to a 4% reduction in fuel consumption and a related reduction in carbon emissions, as well as reducing engine wear and overall cost of operation. They are in use on multiple variants of the C-130 aircraft across the world and have also been optimized for the C-17 GlobeMaster aircraft.

For Metro, the use of additive manufacturing is an advantage to its business process by avoiding high startup costs as well as delivering parts on demand.

“From the start of this as a commercial project in 2017, additive manufacturing was an obvious choice and SLS was the best solution,” said Tim Watkins, VP of Business Development, Metro Aerospace. “For a low-volume parts business, the cost of injection molding production lines would have driven costs too high. With SLS additive manufacturing at Rapid Application Group, we can produce parts to order at affordable cost. With such quality materials and RAG’s proven, repeatable high-quality processes, we know the parts will remain viable. We are very excited about this partnership.”

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746 composites AM companies individually surveyed and studied. Core composites AM market generated over $785 million in 2023. Market expected to grow to $7.8 billion by 2033 at 25.8% CAGR. This new...

Adam Strömbergsson

Adam is a legal researcher and writer with a background in law and literature. Born in Montreal, Canada, he has spent the last decade in Ottawa, Canada, where he has worked in legislative affairs, law, and academia. Adam specializes in his pursuits, most recently in additive manufacturing. He is particularly interested in the coming international and national regulation of additive manufacturing. His past projects include a history of his alma mater, the University of Ottawa. He has also specialized in equity law and its relationship to judicial review. Adam’s current interest in additive manufacturing pairs with his knowledge of historical developments in higher education, copyright and intellectual property protections.

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