America Makes has launched a $4 million project to develop additive manufacturing processes for repairing aerospace parts.
According to lead contractor Optomec, the “Re-Born in the USA” project will focus on additive manufacturing technology for repair of aerospace metal components for the U.S. Air Force. The team will use Optomec’s LENS 3D metal printing technology to develop a cost-effective approach to replace welding and other traditional repair processes.
In addition to Optomec, 23 other partners will participate including GE Aviation, Lockheed Martin, Rolls-Royce, United Technologies Research Center, EWI, TechSolve, and the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology (CCAT).
Among the base of best practices the project hopes to define will be a definition of optimum powder feedstock characteristics, improvements in process monitoring and control, and recommendations for Air Force part repair and sustainment applications.
The LENS (Laser Engineered Net Shaping) technology can add metal onto an existing substrate in nearly any three-dimensional shape. LENS was originally developed at Sandia National Laboratories, and uses laser power up to 4 kW to fuse metal powders into 3D structures using CAD models.
Based in Youngstown, OH, America Makes is a federally funded additive manufacturing consortium that is part of the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) institutes driven by the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (NCDMM).
Optomec was previously awarded two other America Makes projects focused on developing a low-cost LENS engine for machine tools, and developing defect-free metallic 3D LENS printing.