Not Just a Cool Toy

By Rachel Greco

What device at JAARS can make a grown man salivate more than the sight of a juicy grilled steak?

Our large format 3D printer that can print something a meter wide, a meter deep, and half a meter high.  

Terry Heffield, Aviation Research and Development Manager at JAARS, prodded the leadership at JAARS five years ago to buy a small 3D printer for the designing and printing of mock-up parts for aircraft. They consented, and Terry enjoyed learning about and utilizing it for this purpose.

Terry also occasionally used the printer to create small parts for his friend who needed them sometimes for his company. At one point, Terry’s friend said, “I need to make a bigger part.”

“I don’t have a machine big enough to print what you want,” Terry replied.

The man was disappointed, but he came back to Terry a few weeks later. He told Terry that a company was going to charge him $30,000 to print the part. He concluded: “For $30,000, I can buy a printer and put it at JAARS. You can use it for me and you can use it for JAARS.”

JAARS has not let the large printer sit idle; Terry and his team have kept it quite busy.

A JAARS partner, SIL Papua New Guinea (PNG) Aviation, employs and maintains two helicopters with small turbine engines in support of Bible translation. The pilots and mechanics must possess special tools to work on this kind of engine.

Some people in the Aviation Department shook their heads in disbelief when they learned that the manufacturer charges $27,000 for these tools. When JAARS machinists looked at the tools, they said, “We can build all of those.” So they did—for under $3,000.

Then the machinists determined they needed some kind of carrying case for the tools. They didn’t want to just dump them into a canvas bag, where the tools could rattle around and beat themselves up. So Terry and his coworkers suggested printing a shadow board; each tool plugs into a place on the board and a stiff foam rubber cover ensures that they don’t rattle around.

The shadowboard for the helicopter tools

They produced the tool kits for the machinists and pilots to use in PNG, and now sell the tools and kits at a discounted price to other mission organizations like Ethnos 360 and MAF.

Gavin, a helicopter pilot in PNG who flies Bible translators and other mission workers around the country, recently printed a topographic map of PNG on the 3D printer when he was at JAARS for training. “I had heard about 3D printing a few years ago and thought it would be pretty cool to have a 3D map of PNG. Besides the cool ‘wow’ factor of it, I think it will be a great tool for our pilots to be able to see the whole country with its mountains and valleys from a bird’s-eye perspective.” Gavin believes the map “will help solidify in [the pilots’] heads the different routes that we fly each day and learn the country quicker.”

Printing part of the map of Papua New Guinea with the 3D printer

Gavin appreciates Terry’s help with the printer and hopes that the map is “not just a cool thing, but a tool that is used effectively in our training in PNG.”

A 3D Map of Papua New Guinea

The 3D printer’s new, fun technology excites both Terry and Gavin. But what excites them more, is how the printer’s a tool they can utilize to make God’s kingdom known in all the world!  

Want to be part of the exciting things God is doing through JAARS? Learn more here.