The Utah Advanced Materials & Manufacturing Initiative announced that it has been awarded nearly $1M in federal funds to produce carbon composite additive manufactured parts for the Air Force. 

This technology will give UAMMI the ability to 3D print carbon based replacement parts for legacy aircraft on demand — something often prohibitively expensive and time consuming using traditional technologies.

UAMMI’s award constitutes a two-year, $928,000 project, and is set to begin in June 2018. The grant will come from the Air Force-driven MAMLS program (Maturation of Advanced Manufacturing for Low-Cost Sustainment), which was created in partnership with the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL), National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (NCDMM) and America Makes. The fund will make available approximately $6.5M for multiple national awardees.

As a non-profit initiative, UAMMI’s mission is to ensure that Utah is the global leader in value-added advanced materials, manufacturing, technology development, and design. Being awarded this funding will allow UAMMI to bring additive manufacturing, or 3D printing of carbon materials, to the forefront here in Utah, which is quickly becoming a major interest for many Utah advanced manufacturing companies.

“Additive manufacturing represents a huge opportunity for Utah’s advanced manufacturing industry,” said Jeff Edwards, UAMMI Executive Director. “The carbon based components we will produce will be highly valuable to the Air Force as they will significantly reduce both the time and cost of aircraft repairs. This grant will help position Utah as the technology leader and innovator in this new field.”

As aircraft age, availability of parts for needed repairs gets more and more difficult.  Waiting on these parts to be replaced through traditional fabrication is a significant driver of maintenance downtime in legacy systems because of part obsolescence, diminishing manufacturing sources, material shortages and lack of technical data to fabricate the part.  The Air Force Sustainment Center has worked many years to resolve the root causes of these problems with minimal success.  Through MAMLS, the Air Force intends to demonstrate that with the advances in additive manufacturing these parts can be manufactured on-demand.

Phases 1 & 2 of the MAMLS program were completed last year and were designed to identify barriers preventing additive manufacturing from being used in aircraft part replacement and how to overcome them.  Phase 3 is now underway and is the implementation of additive manufacturing part replacement.

“These projects will have a tremendous impact on ensuring the strategic readiness of the U.S. Air Force”, said America Makes Executive Director Rob Gorham. “The anticipated project outcomes will empower the sustainment community to adopt advanced additive manufacturing technologies, improving rapid part replacement/maintenance for legacy aircraft, enabling on-demand replacement of critically damaged or obsolete components, and reducing the cost and lead time to fabricate replacement components,” he added.

The goal of this project is to prove out and accelerate Composite-Based Additive Manufacturing (CBAM) technology and to build a body of CBAM knowledge for today’s non-critical part replacements. Non-critical parts of interest include electrical connectors, instrumentation knobs, wiring harnesses, small brackets, etc.  CBAM will also assess how other part families of similar size, shape, criticality and function can be manufactured.

UAMMI is set to begin working on the project in June 2018 with the specific focus to “Demonstrate 3D Composite Based Additive Manufacturing Build Processes for Low Criticality Part Families”. UAMMI will work with the Air Force Sustainment Center and Hill Air Force Base to identify legacy aircraft parts that need to be replaced.

During the project, the UAMMI additive manufacturing team will be housed at the Utah Science Technology and Research Initiative (USTAR) Innovation Center, which is located at the Falcon Hill Aerospace Research Park next to Hill Air Force Base.

UAMMI’s additive manufacturing team will manufacture the legacy aircraft parts at the USTAR facility using a state-of-the-art carbon-based 3D printer that will be provided by project partner Impossible Objects. Entrepreneurs and researchers that rent space and equipment at the USTAR Innovation Center will also be able to utilize the printer.

Testing of the parts will be conducted by additional project partners, the University of Utah’s Utah Composites Lab as well as the Hill Air Force Base Ogden Air Logistics Complex.

“We are thrilled to be awarded the funding for this project and are excited to start working with our partners to implement it,” said Jeff Edwards, UAMMI Executive Director.  “Additive manufacturing represents a large opportunity for Utah’s advanced manufacturing industry and we are pleased to receive the funding and begin this one-of-a-kind project here in Utah.”

The funding award was announced on April 24th by America Makes at the RAPID + TCT 2018 tradeshow, the world’s largest additive manufacturing industry event.  Six other award recipients were also announced as receiving funding to complete various phase 3 aspects of the program.  For more information on the other recipients, please see the America Makes press release at: https://www.americamakes.us/america-makes-announces-mamls-ph3-project-call-awardees/