3D Printing Processes

GA-ASI establishes new AD&M Center of Excellence

Focused on the rapid-reaction manufacturing of GA-ASI’s line of UAS

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General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI), a world leader in the design and manufacture of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), radars, and electro-optic and related mission systems solutions, has established a new Center of Excellence for its Additive Design and Manufacturing (AD&M). The Center is focused on rapid-reaction manufacturing of GA-ASI’s line of UAS using fully functional and flight-ready additive manufacturing applications, research and development, large-scale tooling, and next-generation flight hardware.

Over the past decade, GA-ASI has invested in the onboarding of AM technologies, as well as led the formation and rapid growth of a dedicated AM department, five years ago.

“GA-ASI is continually looking for ways to enable, accelerate, and integrate additive manufacturing technologies into our designs, our operations, and our products,” said David R. Alexander, President of GA-ASI. “Through our AD&M Center of Excellence, we’re using a structured and stringent qualification process for AM applications that delivers a positive business case for us over conventional manufacturing methods. Through a comprehensive and holistic approach, our team of AM professionals are working to increase the adoption of AM parts for the benefit of our aircraft and ultimately, our customers.”

GA-ASI establishes new AD&M Center of Excellence, focused on the rapid-reaction manufacturing of GA-ASI’s line of UAS.
GA-ASI SeaGuardian

GA-ASI has qualified over 300 flight components across the different AM modalities used for production. In order to develop and qualify flight-capable AM applications, GA-ASI is expanding its AM ecosystem composed of the key elements required for bringing an AM application from a prototype stage (print right once) to a production-level stage (print right always).

GA-ASI’s AM ecosystem has enabled the advancement of repeatable and reliable production-grade 3D printing within the company. This has been supplemented by ecosystem-controlled processes, the establishment of an applications team, and a well-defined expansion roadmap.

GA-ASI performs some recurring production activities at its AD&M Center of Excellence, but the demand for rapid-reaction and low-rate manufacturing has required the development of a strong AM manufacturing supply chain for the overflow production of complex end-use thermoplastics and metal parts.

GA-ASI estimates that the use of AM parts on its new UAS platform – the MQ-9B – has saved the company over $2 million in tooling costs and over $300,000 per aircraft in recurring cost avoidance by using approximately 240 AM parts on that aircraft platform. Overall, the number of AM applications continues to grow rapidly – fuelled by the AM ecosystem established at GA-ASI. As a result, the company already has more than 10,000 additively manufactured components on the aircraft it has produced, and the new MQ-9B SkyGuardian and SeaGuardian models are leading the industry in the use of AM parts.

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Edward Wakefield

Edward is a freelance writer and additive manufacturing enthusiast looking to make AM more accessible and understandable.

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