Optomec, based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA, has been awarded a major project from America Makes, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute in the USA. The “Re-Born in the USA” project will focus on advancing Additive Manufacturing technology for the repair of aerospace metal components for the US Air Force.
Optomec will lead a project team consisting of 23 partners, including aerospace industry leaders GE Aviation, Lockheed Martin, United Technologies Research Center and Rolls-Royce, as well as a group of technical experts serving as lead contributors, including EWI, Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology, TechSolve, the Pennsylvania State University Applied Research Lab and Concurrent Technologies Corporation. The term of the project is two years and is valued at $4 million ($2.6 million public share and $1.4 million private cost share). This is the third America Makes project awarded to Optomec this year.
The team, led by Optomec, will aim to develop a reliable, cost-effective methods to replace conventional repair processes such as manual welding. This includes definition of optimum powder feedstock characteristics, improvements in process monitoring and control, and recommendations for part repair and sustainment applications specifically for the Air Force. The potential benefits of using Additive Manufacturing to repair high value metal components include lower costs, higher quality, longer life and faster return to service.
At the core of the project is Optomec’s LENS metal 3D printing technology. Unlike powder-bed Additive Manufacturing approaches, the LENS process can add metal onto an existing substrate of almost any 3-dimensional shape. Powder-bed processes require a flat, 2-dimensional horizontal base. This makes the LENS Additive Manufacturing process well qualified to perform repair operations.
“This award is significant because it highlights that repair is indeed a leading application area in the Additive Manufacturing landscape. Additionally, it helps to demonstrate that printing onto existing structures in 3D space is a unique and enabling aspect of Optomec 3D printing technologies,” stated Dr Richard Grylls, Optomec LENS General Manager and project leader.
“We are looking forward to working with our partners to deliver a repair methodology that addresses the current challenges faced by the Air Force and provides a framework for the potential adoption of Additive Manufacturing repair processes throughout the aircraft industry. Together we will demonstrate the benefits of additive manufacturing over traditional welding techniques and enable a ‘repair, don’t replace’ approach to critical part sustainment for high-value aerospace components,” added Grylls.
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