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3D-printed parts take flight on RAF jets

BAE Systems uses 3D printing to build protective parts for cockpit radios and take-off shafts.

MakerBot's Replicator 2 3D printer.
MakerBot's Replicator 2 3D printer.
Rich Brown/CNET

3D printing has shown its value in the firearms business, but it's now made its way to fighter jets.

The Royal Air Force, for instance, has flown Tornado fighter jets that included parts made from 3D printers, the BBC reported on Monday. BAE Systems manufactured the jets.

Although the parts weren't of extremely high value, like wings or landing gear, they did find a home as guards for cockpit radios. 3D printing was also used to protect take-off shafts, the BBC says.

Over the past year, 3D printing has found its way into headlines. The technology allows individuals, small groups, or companies to design and then "print" their creations. 3D printing has so far not been cost-effective for individuals, but it's viewed in the corporate setting as a potential cost-savings. The Royal Air Force hopes to save more than 1 million British pounds with 3D printing for the next four years.