8/25/2016 | 2 MINUTE READ

University of Dayton Research Institute Receives Funding for Air Force Program

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The program’s goal is to help improve fleet readiness and availability through advanced technologies, including additive manufacturing.


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The University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI) has been awarded $8 million from America Makes, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, to lead a national program that will use additive manufacturing to help the Air Force more efficiently and affordably sustain aging aircraft. Funding for the award was provided by the Air Force Research Laboratory, and directed to UDRI by America Makes under a new cooperative agreement between America Makes and AFRL.

UDRI will partner and share the award with Youngstown State University to lead a 25-member program team comprising representatives of academia, industry and the Air Force. This supply chain, comprising university researchers; original equipment manufacturers including GE, Boeing, Honeywell, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon; small-business manufacturers and other partners, will work to design, develop and demonstrate new technologies in additive manufacturing and related advanced manufacturing techniques, and then transition those technologies to the Air Force’s three air logistics complexes located at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia, Hill Air Force Base in Utah and Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma.

The goal of the program is to help the Air Force improve fleet readiness and availability, and reduce the amount of time aircraft are out of service for maintenance and repair, said program manager Brian Rice, head of UDRI’s Multi-Scale Composites & Polymers division. The challenge lies in finding replacement parts for an aging fleet, whose planes are flying well beyond their planned service lives, Rice added.

“One of the biggest hurdles to maintaining legacy aircraft is securing out-of-production spare parts,” Rice says. “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. In other cases tooling is gone, and the cost of making new tooling is prohibitively expensive for only low-volume production.”

Rice says the answer lies in additive manufacturing, which can be used to print actual spare parts as needed, or to create even very large tooling and molds to be used in traditional forms of manufacturing. On a small scale, using additive manufacturing for rapid part replacement can be expensive. But the broad-scale, comprehensive nature of the new program—designed to be implemented on a wide level—represents a very cost effective approach to sustainment, Rice said.

Under the program, researchers and partners will assess sustainment needs within the Air Force, benchmark best practices, identify and recommend the most promising existing and emerging technologies, provide training to those who will use them and establish a vendor base of qualified suppliers.

Rice predicts advances in additive manufacturing technologies will ultimately benefit the automotive and a number of other industries as well. P


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