The National Center for Additive Manufacturing Excellence (NCAME) at Auburn University, Alabama, USA, plans to initiate a two-year project focused on improving commercial air travel through the use of metal Additive Manufacturing. The project has been funded by a $3 million grant from the USA’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
The project will involve the Additive Manufacturing of metal parts from multiple industrial-scale metal AM machines. According to NCAME, it specifically aims to address issues related to understanding the variability in performance of the same parts made using different machines, as well as how microscopic features in AM parts can affect their overall fatigue and fracture properties.
Both are key areas in the development of the Additive Manufacturing specifications that the FAA eventually wishes to apply in commercial airlines.
“This is what I call the ‘Achilles heel’ of Additive Manufacturing,” said NCAME director Nima Shamsaei, Philpott-WestPoint Stevens Distinguished Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering. “Such variations make the qualification and certification of AM materials and parts challenging.”
According to the FAA, the partnership is ultimately intended to improve safety by standardising the certification of existing and emerging structural applications of advanced materials, a research area in which NCAME has some expertise, especially in the area of materials for spaceflight components.
Established in 2017 through a public-private partnership between Auburn and NASA, NCAME is also one of the founding partners of the ASTM International Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence, which aims to close AM standards and workforce gaps.
“By understanding the sources of variability, controlling them, or accounting for them, we can generate more reliable materials data, and more reliable AM products,” stated Shamsaei, who will serve as co-principle investigator (PI) on the project.
Steve Taylor, co-PI and Associate Dean for Research, added, “By teaming our faculty, who are global leaders in research on additively manufactured metal components, with the top engineers and scientists at FAA, we are confident that we can develop new knowledge that will help engineers design safer, more efficient aircraft. Auburn University is honoured to be collaborating with the FAA.”