Hot aerospace technologies in 2014: 3D printing, machine-to-machine interfaces, and predictive analysis

With the arrival of the new year, Brendan Viggers, head of product management for IFS Defence in London, comments on the top three technology trends he sees making a big difference in aerospace & defense (A&D) for 2014.


By Brendan Viggers, head of product management, IFS Defence

Predictive Analysis

There has been much talk of big data as a trend for a couple of years now, but there has been little in the way of answers for its uses, or more importantly, the means of identifying which data is useful, and which is not.

2014 will see a real take-up of Corporate Performance Management tools to handle big data, specifically for Predictive Analysis.

In A&D, this will be particularly useful as it will provide the data around asset failures that can then be integrated into logistics systems to help inform and improve future designs. Analysing this data will allow defence organisations to understand why certain parts run down faster than others, and even deeper than that, whether the reason behind it is due to factors such as terrain, or the way the asset has been operated.

An excellent example of Predictive Analysis at work is in Health Usage Monitoring Systems (HUMS) used alongside Performance Based Logistics solutions. This operational feedback can deliver greater efficiency in the supply chain, or even make design improvements to the asset/product in order to lower the total lifecycle cost.

Internet of Things/Machine-to-Machine (M2M) systems

Just as we have heard a lot about big data, we have been hearing about the Internet of Things (IoT) and how our machines will interact with each other independently, but in 2014 applications for the IoT will start to become a reality. Potential technologies that we could see being deployed by defence organisations include connected, smart soldier systems. Such systems could allow central control to understand the condition of soldiers in real-time, allowing for evaluation of health, fitness, blood sugar levels as well as physical location.

This also provides opportunities in terms of storing assets – for example those brought back from Afghanistan. These information systems can provide data which show us how long we can store materials in warehouses and their availability and stock levels, or even whether it's worth bringing them back at all.

3D Printing

3D printing is another development that is securing plenty of column space at the moment, with recent claims that a near fully functioning gun could be printed out by just about anybody. But just as car manufacturers have been making parts for cars this way for a while, this new development in other industries such as A&D provides an opportunity to make parts more efficiently. Rolls-Royce and General Electric announced that they plan to produce parts for aviation engines that are lighter and faster to produce, by 3D printing.

The potential for 3D printing in A&D is enormous, with the accuracy of manufacturing, the time saved and cost benefits huge. And although entire weapons have not been 'printed' out yet, there has been success in making a car, as well as producing landing gear parts for Tornado aircraft.

In 2014, 3D printing will go mainstream in A&D, but printing what? We'll have to wait and see.

IfsAbout the Author

Brendan Viggers, Head of Product Management, IFS Defence is responsible for strategic product management activities for IFS Defence, including the development of a 5 year product roadmap for the A&D market. Prior to being part of the IFS Defence team, Brendan was Senior Consultant on the F35 ALIS Retail Supply Chain Management project. He is happy to discuss the developments in mobility in the A&D market, as well as compliance issues, particularly in light of Export Control.

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