Open Additive metal AM supports US Air Force’s Landing Gear Test Facility

August 11, 2020

A sub-scale runway surface replica additively manufactured on a prototype Panda™ platform during Phase I (Open Additive, LLC)

Open Additive, LLC, headquartered in Beavercreek, Ohio, USA, has been awarded a Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Phase II development effort to support the US Air Force’s Landing Gear Test Facility (LGTF) at Wright-Patterson Airforce Base, Ohio, USA.

Managed by the 704th Test Group, the LGTF uses advanced test methods to evaluate aircraft tyre wear resulting from tyre-runway interaction. Central to these tests is a 4.3 m internal drum dynamometer – a test machine developed and commissioned in 1998 to test tyre performance using a rotating surface. 

To accurately replicate real-world conditions, the LGTF recently launched its 3D Runway Surface Scanning and Surface Recreation Project, which uses 3D scanning of actual runways to develop digital models. 

A key challenge is said to be the ability to precisely fabricate runway test tiles which both match the 3D scans and can stand up to repeated testing. Open Additive stated that in the Phase I effort, its team demonstrated the ability of its Panda Laser Beam Powder Bed Fusion (PBF-LB) machines to accurately reproduce durable runway surface features.

Under the recently-awarded $750,000 two-year Phase II contract (FA9101-20-C-0026), Advanced Runway Texture Imitations for Specialized Tiles Fabrication via Selective Laser Melting, Open Additive states that it will advance and leverage its large-format PBF-LB capabilities for this application. 

To be suitable for end-use in the dynamometer, the full-scale additively manufactured tiles must reportedly be 51 cm long and 13 cm wide, have precise surface features matching 3D scans, be additively manufactured or machined to a specified curvature, and be made from a lightweight alloy to minimise weight.

According to Open Additive, the project complements other company efforts to advance and apply large-format PBF-LB to defence and industry needs. The company’s 600 x 600 x 300 mm PBF-LB testbed is expected to serve as the primary platform for the production of sub-scale and full-scale parts. By the end of this effort, it is expected that the manufacturing process will have been proven viable to support the LGTF’s needs.

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