GE Additive and Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR), Kansas, USA, have signed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). This aims to act as the cornerstone of a new collaborative effort aimed at supporting the US Department of Defense‘s (DoD) accelerated adoption of metal Additive Manufacturing technology.
Additive Manufacturing has grown within the commercial and military aerospace and defence sector over the past decade, and, in that time, GE and Wichita State’s NIAR have worked closely with the DoD, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and other stakeholders to accelerate safe adoption of AM for highly critical applications.
“Based on our experience with NIAR’s material qualification capabilities and how they complement our work at GE Additive, we realised the benefits of putting our relationship with NIAR on a more formal footing,” added David Handler, General Manager – Government Business at GE Additive. “We visited the team at Wichita to see their facilities firsthand, and that accelerated our discussions to determine how we can bring our complimentary abilities to bear for the warfighter.”
The partnership aims to accelerate metal AM adoption within the military aerospace and defence industrial base by advocating for common practices, rapid qualification & certification, and the development of a shared database for AM data and knowledge. Both organisations are said to have been recognised by the DoD as industry leaders: NIAR in developing digital twins of various ageing vehicles, and GE Additive in providing technology to additively manufacture out-of-production and obsolete spare parts from digital twin data.
“GE has been doing this for a long time, and they have cracked the Additive Manufacturing code. You can see it in their data and process control,” stated John Tomblin, Wichita State’s senior vice president for Industry and Defense Programs and NIAR executive director. “The real beauty about this partnership is bringing the knowledge of the two sides together to advance AM technology to benefit the DoD. The time is now.”
“NIAR’s material database capabilities are an important asset needed to build a comprehensive, secure, accessible, standard format for materials data that all depots can use,” said Handler. “GE Additive and NIAR aim to establish an industry platform that is flexible enough to be used across all branches of the DoD. The partnership will accelerate the DoD’s desire to go from old metal to digital, and then supply needed spare parts by going from digital back to new metal.”
Rachael Andrulonis, NIAR Senior Research Engineer for Composites and Advanced Materials, added, “It is critical that the platform provides quality specifications and material allowables that are naturally integrated into DoD processes and readily available and accessible across the DoD and to its industry partners, when permitted.”
Development of the database will also involve the implementation of students in an applied learning capacity, enabling a new workforce that understands AM qualification and implementation.
In order to be an efficient and relevant resource, GE Additive and NIAR plan to move quickly; the partnership and involvement of student employees are expected to allow the team to rapidly develop specifications to convert metal to digital and digital to metal – part by part.
“GE realises the importance of investment in these platforms,” added Handler. “It correlates directly: the broader the scope of parts, the broader the scope of the partnership, the broader scope of sustainment solutions for the warfighter.”