Essentium, Inc., announced obtaining a new United States’ Air Force (USAF) contract, which will drive the USAF’s adoption of AM in its maintenance regime. The contract cuts across maintenance tasks. It targets the development and deployment of advanced additive manufacturing (AM) 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 U.S. Air Force and the National Guard Bureau (NGB).
This contract is part of more than $550 million recently deployed through the inaugural Strategic Financing (STRATFi) initiative to identify and advance ‘big bet’ technologies that have the potential to protect and advance the future dominance of the USAF and its airmen. The contract will also help the NGB advance its ability to speed the production of parts for aging fleets of air and ground vehicles.
The multi-year collaborative contract has the potential to save both services millions by ramping AM production and developing certified materials that will produce consistent quality AM parts at unparalleled speed and economics.
The USAF is under constant pressure to accelerate aircraft repairs, reduce costs, and quickly get aircraft back in the air. 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 USAF to cannibalize parts from the ‘aircraft boneyard’ at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.
Innovations in AM technology address these production, supply chain and procurement challenges. The Essentium-USAF project team will test and develop new materials and processes using the Essentium High-Speed Extrusion (HSE) 3D Printing Platform, which offers segment-leading print speeds useful for both rapid part production at the point of use and decreasing the time required to certify new materials for use in flight.
Supplementing the hardware’s capabilities, Essentium engineers will use their expertise in materials science to offer drop-in replacements for MIL-spec materials such as phenolics. The team will aim to certify 4X the number of materials in dramatically less time and cost compared with incumbent solutions currently available to the USAF.