Hepburn and Sons, Manassas, Virginia, USA, has officially partnered with MELD Manufacturing Corporation, Christiansburg, Virginia to bring large-scale metal Additive Manufacturing to the defence manufacturing and repair sector. The companies began working together in 2021 to introduce the US Navy, other military services and the Department of Defense to MELD’s additive friction stir deposition AM technology.
Hepburn and Sons LLC was founded in 2010 with its initial focus to provide consulting, engineering analysis, and advisory & design services in the areas of naval engineering and naval architecture. The company has grown rapidly over the last few years and is now leading research & development efforts for the US Navy, Air Force, Army, and Coast Guard, as well as the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. In order to execute their mission, Hepburn aims to find innovative small businesses that have technology that can be utilised to support the US defence sector.
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“Together, Hepburn and MELD will quickly transition advanced, large-scale metal Additive Manufacturing capability to our nation’s defence manufacturing and repair organisations to rapidly improve our warfighting capabilities at a reduced cost and schedule,” stated Scott Hepburn, CEO of Hepburn and Sons.
The Hepburn and MELD team recently won two research projects supporting both the US Air Force and the US Navy. For the Air Force, the Hepburn MELD team was selected for phase two of a Small Business Innovative Research programme (SBIR) project. The overall objective of this project is to prove how MELD can improve the production and reduce the cost of components used in low-cost, attritable unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) as well as to address the sustainment of existing critical UAV inventory.
For the Navy, the team was selected for a National Shipbuilding Research Program (NSRP) research & development project, as part of the program’s continuing mission to reduce costs associated with US shipbuilding and ship repair. Through this project, the team will use MELD to additively manufacture flight deck tie downs.
Though seemingly benign, the cost of manufacturing and long lead times for flight deck tie downs, particularly those installed in ships with aluminium flight decks, is significant. Coupled with the fact that thousands of these tie downs are installed or replaced by the Navy every year, the team believes they can maintain the geometry and function of the standard item while using MELD to rapidly additively manufacture these tie downs, thereby reducing cost and schedule by implementing a manufacture-on-demand approach to manufacture low-cost, high-volume parts, such as the flight deck tie down.
Nanci Hardwick, CEO of MELD, added, “What makes this team so valuable is the combination of technology and the expertise needed to field that technology. MELD offers the ability to reshore production of critical components and Hepburn offers the experience and know-how to transition technology quickly and effectively.”
Through their new relationship, the Hepburn MELD team believes they can utilise MELD technology to help resolve challenges in the Navy and in the US defence sector generally, including supply chain disruptions caused by scarcity of metal spare parts along with long lead times on parts that result in excessive backlog.