Last year, the US Air Force (USAF) and GE entered the third phase of its ‘Pacer Edge’ pathfinder. Phase III has focused on 3D printing for four out-of-production parts: a bellcrank, gearbox seat, anti-icing valve body, and a cross shaft arm. The first two parts, the cross shaft arm and the bellcrank, were successfully printed, last year, in cobalt-chrome on a fleet of M2 Series 5 systems at GE Additive‘s facility in Cincinnati. Now, the final two parts, the gearbox seat and the anti-icing valve body, have also been successfully printed.
The final phase of the program over the coming years is to establish the USAF’s own metal additive production infrastructure initially at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma. This capability will alleviate long lead timetables that currently plague the casting and forging industries.
“Pacer Edge represents a monumental step forward in innovative partnership with industry. Through this program, our enterprise team will deliver safe and timely propulsion readiness in support of the United States warfighter,” said Mr. John Sneden, Director of Propulsion, USAF.
USAF is not the only entity struggling to receive their castings and forgings in a timely manner. It remains a choke point for many industries and has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Public-private initiatives like the recently announced ‘AM Forward’ initiative will also help to address DoD’s sustainment and readiness challenges head on. Strengthening U.S. supply chains, by encouraging small and medium-sized manufacturers across the United States to adopt metal additive technology, will create a nationwide network of a qualified additive manufacturing suppliers,” said Lauren Tubesing, Director of Operations, Military Programs at GE Additive.