Ohio-based metal AM company Open Additive has been awarded a 27-month Air Force Commercial Readiness Program (CRP) contract worth $2.94 million to industrialize and scale its large-format laser powder bed fusion metal additive manufacturing technology. The CRP contract, called Open Systems Platform for Multi-Laser Additive Manufacturing, is sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory, Materials and Manufacturing Directorate at the Wright-Patterson Air Force base in Ohio.
Open Additive is a relatively young company in the metal AM sphere, having spun out from Universal Technology Company (UTC) to develop an affordable LPBF system that was cost-accessible and component and material agnostic. Last year, the company unveiled a system that fit the bill: the PANDA 3D printer. Earlier this month, the company formally launched a new and improved PANDA system, which will reportedly begin shipping to customers this summer. The open metal AM platform has a range of applications, including development and validation of LPBF technologies, materials research and parameters development, applications development, training and education and manufacturing services.
The $2.94 million CRP contract awarded to Open Additive will build on the company’s existing Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) portfolio and research efforts to develop open-architecture LPBF systems with advanced processing and in situ monitoring capabilities. In short, the new contract aims to accelerate the transition of Open Additive’s technologies and products into Phase III and, ultimately, into the defense acquisition process.
The contract and funding will allow Open Additive to develop and demonstrate a prototype quad-laser metal AM system. The new system will be equipped with full user control of standard and advanced processing parameters, multi-sensor monitoring and feedback control, and an integrated heated build plate with 600 x 600 mm build area. All these features will be configured within a versatile form factor. The contract, which was awarded in February, has already completed first technical review.
“This effort paves the way to extend the versatility and advanced capabilities of our smaller systems to a much larger and more capable platform for the defense industrial base,” said Dr. Ty Pollak, President of Open Additive. “We’re excited to support the Air Force push in this direction.”
The project will be led by Dr. Thomas Spears, Chief Scientist at Open Additive. Dr. Spears joined Open Additive in September 2019, after serving at GE Aviation and GE Additive for six years, leading technology and product development projects in metal AM. The contract also brings on partners from the University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI).