Building on the earlier success and momentum of the Pacer Edge programme, GE Additive and the US Air Force (USAF) entered Phase III of its metal Additive Manufacturing pathfinder. This phase aims to tackle the USAF’s sustainment ‘cold starts’ (aircraft engine components that take over 300 days to procure) head-on. Currently, the organisation faces approximately 800 cold starts each year.
“The first priority for the USAF and GE team has been to create digital 3D technical data packages (TDPs) for hard-to-procure, obsolete cold start parts and deliver four airworthy, near-net castings. These TDPs will eventually mean that part obsolescence will be a thing of the past,” stated Alexa Polites, USAF Pacer Edge programme manager, GE Additive.
Over the coming years, the joint team intends to create at least five TDPs, increasing in technical complexity, across the USAF’s sustainment platforms.
“The teaming of GE and the USAF legitimises utilisation of Additive Manufacturing to address critical needs of the aging aircraft that are currently unsupported within the existing supply chain,” stated Zack Miller, Chief, Advanced Manufacturing Program Office, Air Force Rapid Sustainment Office.
Beth Dittmer, Chief, Propulsion Integration Division, Tinker Air Force Base (AFB), Oklahoma, added, “Pacer Edge is accelerating the USAF’s widespread adoption of 3D metal printing to organically solve supply chain shortages and realising its promise to improve warfighter support by drastically reducing lead times and creating additional sourcing options.”
Phase III is reported to have already resulted in two successfully additively manufactured components: a bellcrank and a cross shaft arm (pictured above). These were manufactured in cobalt-chrome on a Concept Laser M2 Series 5 GE Additive‘s Cincinnati, Ohio. Progress has also been made on additional components using Alloy 718.
The cornerstone goal of the Pacer Edge programme is the creation of organic capabilities at Tinker AFB. One way to achieve that is by ensuring that intellectual property generated within the programme is owned by the US Government, enabling the USAF and Department of Defense to additively manufacture these parts themselves in the future.
The programme remains on schedule with the goal of having airworthy production castings delivered to the USAF in Spring 2022.
GE is currently exhibiting at Formnext Hall 11.0, E12.