The US Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s (AFLCMC) Propulsion Directorate and Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex (OC-ALC), along with industry partner General Electric, has unveiled the complex’s second Reverse Engineering and Critical Tooling (REACT-II) laboratory, which houses two metal Additive Manufacturing machines procured under the US Air Force’s Pacer Edge Programme.
The Pacer Edge Programme is a partnership between government and industry designed to provide cutting-edge technology that increases production speed and reduces the cost of sustainment by leveraging Additive Manufacturing to produce critical aircraft and engine components that are safe, suitable and reliable. The programme’s goal is to increase Air Force weapon system readiness by combating diminishing sources of manufacturing, supply and repair.
“The printer will be used for the production of propulsion items such as tooling and engine parts,” stated Jason McCurry, Reverse Engineering, and Critical Tooling flight chief. “The biggest impact is the ability to produce parts that are no longer manufactured.”
As part of the Pacer Edge Programme, the two metal Additive Manufacturing machines will demonstrate the US Air Force’s capability to additively manufacture metal aircraft and engine components. Safety of Flight related parts will need to be certified by the Air Force’s Airworthiness Certification Authority before put into use, it was added.
Beyond supporting aged systems plagued by diminishing manufacturing sources, the Pacer Edge Programme is said to be able to reduce production time by 80%.
“The propulsion directorate embraced Additive Manufacturing because of one big strategic reason and that is to improve propulsion readiness for the warfighter,” added John Sneden, director of Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Propulsion Directorate. “Additive Manufacturing puts us in the driver’s seat so we can source those low volume hard to get parts at the speed of need.”
Major General Jeff King, OC-ALC commander, stated, “Through this partnership, we bought the rights to the tech data and now we have the machines here and GE is training us to use them. They are guiding us through this process that will help speed the airworthiness certification process which produces high quality parts faster and still preserves that high level of safety that we require for our warfighters.”
The programme has successfully developed two engine-related airworthy metal AM parts that are flying today, one for the B-52 Stratofortress and another for the F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft. OC-ALC and AFLCMC/LP are said to have over a dozen more parts currently in development.