Boeing and nonprofit manufacturing organization ASTRO America unveiled a 3D-printed main rotor link assembly for the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter, C4ISRNET reported Thursday.

The main rotor system, which will be tested next spring, is the first component produced by the two companies using additive manufacturing equipment at Rock Island Arsenal in Illinois.

The rotor’s creation stems from the Jointless Hull Project, for which ASTRO won a $95 million engineering contract from the U.S. Army’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center. The component is made from 6000 series aluminum alloy, which took 45 minutes to deposit.

The team used a machine capable of building a single-piece M1 Abrams tank hull and spent a total of eight hours printing the rotor system, which is significantly faster than the one-year lead time for traditional manufacturing.

Aside from the main assembly, Boeing intends to print related parts and conduct full-scale fatigue testing in April 2024 to compare their quality with traditionally-produced versions.

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