SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Adine Deford, Cynthia Dunlop, Harry Trott, Xenia von Wedel, Peter Silva

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Optomec Awarded $4 Million Project from America Makes to Implement Metal 3D Printing for U.S. Air Force Repair Applications

Optomec announced today that the company has been awarded a major project from America Makes, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute. The “Re-Born in the USA” project will focus on advancing additive manufacturing technology for the repair of aerospace metal components for the U.S. Air Force. Specifically, the team led by Optomec will leverage the unique advantages of LENS 3D metal printing technology, and the expertise of some of the world’s leading aerospace companies and industry organizations, to advance a reliable, cost-effective approach to replace conventional repair processes such as manual welding. The potential benefits of using additive manufacturing to repair high value metal components include lower costs, higher quality, longer life and faster return to service.

Optomec will lead a project team consisting of 23 partners, including aerospace industry leaders GE Aviation, Lockheed Martin, United Technologies Research Center and Rolls-Royce, as well as a group of technical experts serving as lead contributors, including EWI, Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology, TechSolve, the Pennsylvania State University Applied Research Lab and Concurrent Technologies Corporation. The term of the project is two years and is valued at $4 million ($2.6 million public share and $1.4 million private cost share). This is the third America Makes project awarded to Optomec this year.

The goal of the project is to develop a set of specifications and a knowledge base of best practices in advancing additive manufacturing methods to repair aerospace metal components. This includes definition of optimum powder feedstock characteristics, improvements in process monitoring and control, and recommendations for part repair and sustainment applications specifically for the Air Force.

At the core of the project is Optomec’s LENS metal 3D printing technology. Unlike “powder-bed” additive manufacturing approaches, the LENS process can add metal onto an existing substrate of almost any 3-dimensional shape. Powder-bed processes require a flat, 2-dimensional horizontal base. This makes the LENS Additive Manufacturing process well qualified to perform repair operations. LENS machines are already in use around the world conducting repairs of ground-based high value components for defense and other industries.

“This award is significant because it highlights that repair is indeed a leading application area in the additive manufacturing landscape. Additionally, it helps to demonstrate that printing onto existing structures in 3D space is a unique and enabling aspect of Optomec 3D printing technologies,” said Dr. Richard Grylls, Optomec LENS General Manager and Re-Born in the USA project leader. “We are looking forward to working with our partners to deliver a repair methodology that addresses the current challenges faced by the Air Force and provides a framework for the potential adoption of additive manufacturing repair processes throughout the aircraft industry. Together we will demonstrate the benefits of additive manufacturing over traditional welding techniques and enable a ‘repair, don’t replace’ approach to critical part sustainment for high-value aerospace components.”

About America Makes

America Makes is the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute. As the national accelerator for additive manufacturing and 3D printing (3DP), America Makes is the nation’s leading and collaborative partner in Additive Manufacturing and 3DP technology research, discovery, creation and innovation. Structured as a public-private partnership with member organizations from industry, academia, government, non-government agencies, and workforce and economic development resources, we are working together to innovate and accelerate Additive Manufacturing and 3DP to increase our nation’s global manufacturing competitiveness. Based in Youngstown, Ohio, America Makes is the pilot institute for up to 45 manufacturing innovation institutes and is driven by the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (NCDMM). For more information about America Makes, visit http://americamakes.us.

About Optomec

Optomec is a privately held, rapidly growing supplier of production grade Additive Manufacturing systems. Optomec patented Aerosol Jet systems for printed electronics and LENS 3D Printers for metal components are used by industry to reduce product cost and improve performance. Together, these unique printing solutions work with the broadest spectrum of functional materials, ranging from electronic inks to structural metals and even biological matter. Optomec has more than 150 marquee customers around the world, targeting production applications in the Electronics, Energy, Life Sciences and Aerospace industries. For more information about Optomec, visit http://optomec.com.

LENS (Laser Engineered Net Shaping) is a registered trademark of Sandia National Laboratories

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