UAMMI recently created and fit-checked its first carbon fiber 3D printed part for the Air Force- a first aid kit restraint strap for the B-1 aircraft at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma.
A year ago, the Utah Advanced Materials & Manufacturing Initiative (UAMMI) was awarded federal funds to create carbon fiber additive manufactured parts (“3D printed”) for the United States Air Force. The goal was to replace broken parts on older legacy aircraft since most original parts are no longer produced.
Over the last year, UAMMI has been working with the Air Force to identify non-critical parts that could be replaced using additive manufacturing technology. One of the early agreed upon parts was a restraint strap for a first-aid kit in the B-1 aircraft. In many of these aircraft the Air Force has experienced failures with the original restraint strap which put at risk the kit dislodging during flight. However, the original replacement straps are no longer manufactured and there is a significant cost and wait time to have a new part produced through traditional means.
Using a state-of-the-art additive manufacturing machine, from project partner Impossible Objects, UAMMI has successfully produced a replacement part using carbon fiber and thermoplastic materials. In April, they took the part to Tinker Air Force Base to fit check it with an operational B-1 aircraft. The installation of the part included adding new rivet holes, inserting a buckle in the strap cavity, and fastening the strap to the cockpit wall panel. The installation went smoothly and the B-1 program engineers were pleased with the fit, commenting that they were surprised the part fit so well on the first try.
The additive manufacturing project is being funded through the Air Force Research Laboratory under an America Makes program called the Maturation of Advanced Manufacturing for Low Cost Sustainment (MAMLS). Through MAMLS, the Air Force intends to demonstrate that additive manufacturing can be used to replace non-critical parts on-demand. Of particular interest are instrumentation knobs, wiring harnesses, small brackets, electrical connectors and similar items.
“Additive manufacturing represents a huge opportunity for Utah’s advanced manufacturing industry,” said Jeff Edwards, UAMMI Executive Director. “The composite additive parts that we are creating for the Air Force will significantly reduce both the time and cost of aircraft repairs. There is a long list of parts we plan to test and this project will help position Utah as the technology leader and innovator in this new field.”
For the printing, UAMMI has partnered with equipment manufacturer Impossible Objects from Illinois. Their unique additive manufacturing machine uses Composite-Based Additive Manufacturing (CBAM) technology to 3D print with carbon fiber and thermoplastic materials. The Air Force is particularly interested to prove out and accelerate CBAM technology as well as build a body of knowledge for them to use in determining which replacement parts are best suited for Composite-Based Additive Manufacturing.
Now that the replacement part has successfully passed the initial B-1 fit-check, the team is ready for the final steps. Before further production, they must run the part through a Fire, Smoke and Toxicity Test at the National Institute for Aviation Research at Wichita State University. Upon successful completion of that test, the part will be ready for USAF approval and installation into the operational B-1 fleet.
Founded in 2014, the Utah Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Initiative (UAMMI) brings together public, private, community, industry and education partners to assure growth and sustainability of Utah’s advanced materials and manufacturing industry and maintain Utah’s leadership in this key global industry. 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.
About America Makes
America Makes is the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute. As the national accelerator for additive manufacturing (AM), America Makes is the nation’s leading and collaborative partner in AM and 3DP technology research, discovery, creation, and innovation. Structured as a public-private partnership with member organizations from industry, academia, government, non-government agencies, and workforce and economic development resources, we are working together to innovate and accelerate AM to increase our nation’s global manufacturing competitiveness. Based in Youngstown, Ohio, America Makes is the first Institute within the Manufacturing USA infrastructure and is driven by the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (NCDMM). For more information about America Makes, visit https://americamakes.us .
The MAMLS program is the Maturation of Advanced Manufacturing for Low-Cost Sustainment. It is funded by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, Manufacturing and Industrial Base Technology Division. The program is aimed at improving efficiency of the factory and/or AF Air Logistics Complexes for rapid part replacement for legacy and other aircraft. https://www.americamakes.us/project-call-phase3-mamls/
About Impossible Objects
Impossible Objects is a 3D printer and materials company pioneering advancements in the additive manufacturing and composites manufacturing industries. Based on years of research and development, our composite-based additive manufacturing technology (CBAM) is an entirely new process that is fundamentally different from conventional additive manufacturing technologies. Our CBAM process is designed specifically for composites. It produces parts stronger than other additive manufacturing technologies, faster than traditional composite methods, with more design freedom, and a broader selection of materials, including carbon fiber and fiberglass paired with Nylon and PEEK. www.impossible-objects.com