usaf additive manufacturing

Essentium inks USAF additive manufacturing collaboration

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Essentium has announced its latest contract to drive the development and deployment of advanced additive manufacturing within the US Air Force (USAF).

The goal is to help develop solutions for applications in tooling, ground support, maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO), and flight-certified parts for military aircraft and ground vehicles through both the USAF and the National Guard Bureau (NGB).

The multi-year collaborative contract is part of a $550M spend to identify ‘big bet’ technologies that have the potential to protect and advance the future dominance of the USAF.

USAF additive manufacturing repairs
USAF Maintenance Staff work to repair an engine on a C-17 Globemaster III  [U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Mikayla Heineck]
USAF additive manufacturing has the potential to save both services millions by ramping-up production and developing certified materials faster, which will produce consistent quality parts at ‘unparalleled speed and economics’.

This USAF additive manufacturing contract is part of over $550 million recently deployed through the inaugural Strategic Financing (STRATFi) initiative to identify and advance ‘big bet’ technologies which have the potential to protect and advance the future dominance of the U.S. Air Force and its airmen. The contract will also help the NGB advance its ability to speed production of parts for aging fleets of air and ground vehicles.

The USAF is under constant pressure to accelerate aircraft repairs, reduce costs, and get aircraft back in the air quickly. For many aging aircraft, replacement parts are scarce, and it is challenging to find manufacturers willing to resume the production of parts that may not be reordered for many years.

Parts ordered one or two at a time are extremely expensive and entail exceptionally long waits, often forcing the U.S. Air Force to cannibalise parts from the aircraft ‘boneyard’ at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

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The Essentium-USAF project team will test and develop new materials and processes using the Essentium High Speed Extrusion 3D Printing platform.

Supplementing the capabilities of the hardware, Essentium says that its engineers will use their expertise in materials science to offer ‘drop-in replacements’ for MIL-spec materials such as phenolics. The team says it aims to certify four times the quantity of materials in dramatically less time and cost compared with incumbent solutions currently available to the USAF.

Essentium USAF additive manufacturing
A packed bay of Essentium HSE 3D printers

“Developing safety-critical airplane parts is closer than ever before due to cutting edge technology like Essentium’s additive manufacturing solution,” said Nathan Parker, deputy PEO, USAF Rapid Sustainment Office.

“Essentium demonstrated it has the expertise and capabilities to create parts with consistent replication using the Essentium HSE 3D Printing Platform.

“We will work together to drive additive manufacturing technology forward; for faster aircraft repairs that massively reduces time to deliver parts to keep our war fighters ready,” he added.

“This program will help bring about an end to the scenario of days of aircraft sitting on tarmac awaiting simple replacement parts which may be 3D printed and can get them flying again,” said Essentium CDO Elisa Teipel.

“We are beyond thrilled to be awarded this contract and work with our government customers to help drive significant advancement in military parts manufacturing and advance the U.S. Air Force’s military leadership.”