Essentium, Inc., a leading provider of industrial additive manufacturing (AM) solutions, announced that it has been awarded a contract by the U.S. Air Force to drive the development and deployment of advanced additive manufacturing 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).
The multi-year collaborative contract has the potential to save both services millions of dollars by ramping AM production and developing certified materials that will produce consistent quality AM parts at unparalleled speed and economics.
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 U.S. Air Force 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 U.S. Air Force 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 U.S. Air Force to cannibalize parts from the ‘aircraft boneyard’ at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.
Advanced additive manufacturing solutions are poised to address these production, supply chain, and procurement challenges. The Essentium-U.S. Air Force 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 quantity of materials in dramatically less time and cost compared with incumbent solutions currently available to the U.S. Air Force.
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Nathan Parker, Deputy PEO, Rapid Sustainment Office, U.S. Air Force commented “Developing safety-critical airplane parts is closer than ever before due to cutting edge technology like Essentium’s advanced additive manufacturing solution. Essentium demonstrated it has the expertise and capabilities to create parts with consistent replication using the Essentium HSE 3D Printing Platform. We will work together to drive additive manufacturing technology forward; for faster aircraft repairs that massively reduce time to deliver parts to keep our war fighters ready.”
Elisa Teipel, Ph.D., Chief Development Officer and Co-founder, Essentium, Inc.: “The sky is the limit for the potential benefits of advanced additive manufacturing for the U.S. Air Force. As well as reducing operating costs by tens of millions, the strategic capability we will work with our STRATFi partners to deliver through this program will help bring about an end to the scenario of days of aircraft sitting on tarmac awaiting simple replacement parts which may be 3D printed and can get them flying again. We are beyond thrilled to be awarded this contract and work with our government customers to help drive significant advancement in military parts manufacturing and advance the U.S. Air Force’s military leadership.”
*(STRATFi) initiative in this case brings funding from the Air Force Rapid Sustainment Office (RSO), Life Cycle Management Center Engineering Directorate (LCMC/EZP), Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and the NGB. Funding for this visionary program was facilitated by the AF Ventures / AFWERX office, and the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)/Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program.
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