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Relativity Space wins U.S. Air Force contract for Real-time flaw detection in 3D Printing

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Relativity Space secures U.S. Air Force for Real-time flaw detection in 3D printing
Relativity Space’s Stargate 3D printing platform/Source: Relativity Space

Relativity Space, a 3D printing-based launch vehicle manufacturer, has been awarded a $8.7 million contract by the United States Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) to investigate real-time flaw detection in 3D printing. Work will take place in Long Beach, California, and is expected to be completed by July 3, 2026.

Real-time flaw detection in 3D printing refers to the ability to detect defects while parts are being printed. This is an important technology because additive manufacturing works by laying down thin layers of material on top of each other, which increases the possibility of imperfections.

Real-time flaw detection in 3D Printing

Relativity Space Long Beach, California facility
Relativity Space Long Beach, California facility/Source: Relativity Space

The two-year research contract for real-time flaw detection in 3D printing is from AFRL’s Materials and Manufacturing Directorate at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. This project will be completed at Relativity’s factory in Long Beach, California, using the company’s Stargate 3D printing platform, which is known for its large-scale metal printing capabilities.

Adam Hicks, a physicist at AFRL’s Materials and Manufacturing Directorate said, “This effort with Relativity Space is in response to a congressional demand signal.”

The National Defence Authorization Act directed the Defence Department to investigate ways to use additive manufacturing to accelerate the production of aerospace components and vehicles. Lawmakers also mandated that the Department of Defence establish a network of domestic suppliers to assist in the evaluation of these technologies.

Hicks announced that AFRL will collaborate with Relativity on real-time flaw detection in large-format additive manufacturing.

“The intent is to explore various in-situ process monitoring and post-build non-destructive evaluation techniques, along with advanced robotics, automation and digital enterprise tools.”

– Adam Hicks, a physicist at AFRL’s Materials and Manufacturing Directorate

Non-destructive evaluation techniques are used to ensure the quality and integrity of the final product by inspecting the structure of a part without causing damage.

Hicks added, “Relativity Space will develop and prove a real-time flaw detection system which will detect, localize and classify defects during the print process. This data will then be aggregated, enabling a true digital thread.”

In aerospace engineering, a digital thread serves as a central nervous system for an aircraft’s entire lifecycle, from design to disposal. A digital thread is created through data that connects the various stages of an aircraft’s existence.

Experts believe that real-time flaw detection in 3D printing will be critical for the widespread adoption of additive manufacturing in spaceflight and other demanding applications.

Relativity Space is among several companies pioneering the use of additive manufacturing in aerospace. The technology provides benefits such as shorter lead times, greater design flexibility, and lighter-weight components. However, maintaining the quality of additively manufactured parts remains a significant challenge.


About Manufactur3D Magazine: Manufactur3D is an online magazine on 3D Printing. Visit our Global News page for more updates on Global 3D Printing News. To stay up-to-date about the latest happenings in the 3D printing world, like us on Facebook or follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter. Follow us on Google News.

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About author
Abhimanyu Chavan is the founder of Manufactur3D Magazine. He writes on Additive Manufacturing technology, interviews industry leaders, shares industry insights, and expresses his thoughts on the latest developments in the industry. You can follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.
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