The US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has appointed the America Makes National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute to conduct research on advanced manufacturing techniques for aircraft part replacements.
AFRL awarded a $10m research project to America Makes as it looks to deal with challenges associated with the sustainment of its fleet of aircraft, aircraft support vehicles and machinery.
The project was awarded under a new five-year cooperative agreement between AFRL and America Makes.
Work under the project includes research on additive manufacturing and related advanced manufacturing techniques such as reverse engineering tools, 3-D scanners, computer-aided design software and non-destructive evaluation systems.
America Makes programme manager Dr. Dennis Butcher said: “The goal of this directed project opportunity is to improve the efficiency of Air Force air logistics complexes in rapidly replacing parts for legacy and other military aircraft by developing, demonstrating and guiding the transition to the use of additive manufacturing and other types of related advanced manufacturing technology.”
The University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI) and Youngstown State University are also taking part in the research project.
The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and Air Force Reserve Command’s 910th Airlift Wing are also involved in the project.
UDRI multi-scale composites and polymers division head Brian Rice said: “The challenge lies in finding replacement parts for an aging fleet, whose planes are flying well beyond their planned service lives.
“One of the biggest hurdles to maintaining legacy aircraft is securing out-of-production spare parts.
"In some cases, suppliers have gone out of business, or they will no longer support the production of spare parts for older aircraft. It’s just not profitable for them.”