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America Makes has awarded a contract to Optomec to work on a project that seeks to implement metal 3D printing for the US Air Force’s (USAF) aerospace components repair applications.

Under the $4m ‘Re-Born in the USA’ project contract, the company-led team comprising 23 partners will work to advance a reliable, cost-effective approach for replacement of the conventional repair processes, such as manual welding, over the next two years.

Leveraging Optomec’s LENS metal 3D printing technology, the team will develop a set of specifications and a knowledge base of best practices in streamlining additive manufacturing methods to repair aerospace metal components.

Specific project work includes definition of optimum powder feedstock characteristics, enhancements in process monitoring and control, and recommendations for part repair and sustainment applications, primarily for the air force.

Optomec LENS general manager and Re-Born in the USA project leader Dr. Richard Grylls said the team will deliver a repair methodology that meets the current challenges faced by the air force and offers 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,” Grylls said.

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The use of additive manufacturing for repair of high value metal components is claimed to reduce costs, improve quality, ensure longer life and faster return to service, according to the company.

Optomec’s team also includes GE Aviation, Lockheed Martin, United Technologies Research Center, Rolls-Royce, EWI, Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology, TechSolve, the Pennsylvania State University Applied Research Lab and Concurrent Technologies.

Designed to add metal onto an existing substrate of almost any three-dimensional shape unlike other powder-bed additive manufacturing approaches, Optomec’s LENS metal 3D printing technology is already used for repairs of ground-based high-value components by defence and other industries worldwide.

Defence Technology