Wichita State University’s (WSU) National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) has received a $23.5m contract from the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) to lead the fleet sustainment programme.
The ‘Modeling for Affordable, Sustainable Composites’ (MASC) contract will seek to develop a certification framework to pave the way for advanced materials and structural concepts for automated manufacturing.
Through the programme, the airforce is looking to expand the framework for developing innovative in-service inspection technologies for advanced structures and bonded joints.
The expanded framework will also cover validating composite repair analysis techniques, as well as life extension of ageing composite structures and structural enhancements.
US Senator Jerry Moran said: “The fleet sustainment programme signifies the immense value NIAR provides to our airforce and national defence.”
The programme will be led by NIAR’s new Advanced Technologies Lab for Aerospace Systems (ATLAS) and include partnerships between AFRL researchers, defence contractors, and universities.
ATLAS is designed to develop manufacturing protocols for automated fibre placement (AFP) and automated tape laying (ATL) for aircraft systems.
Construction on this facility has started and is expected to be completed in mid-2020.
The project will focus on enhancing tools for design-manufacture-certify advanced integrated structures.
To achieve this, researchers and project partners will use machine-learning and artificial intelligence algorithms coupled with automated technologies to manufacture next-generation composite airframes.
WSU interim president Andy Tompkins said: “Wichita State has strategically invested in technology to assist the aviation and manufacturing industries become more competitive and efficient while providing applied learning opportunities for our students.
“This extended partnership with the Department of Defence (DoD) and AFRL is an endorsement of the high-calibre capabilities and expertise at this university and we’re honoured to have the opportunity to work with them in this capacity.”