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University of Akron and AMES Demonstrate Results of Joint Additive Manufacturing Project: Using the SPD Method to Repair Commercial Aircraft

Metal Parts Produced
Commercial Space
Medical Devices

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Few topics bring me more happiness during the work day than hearing about all of the 3D printing innovation, education, and fun taking place in my beloved home state of Ohio. BeeHex recently moved its R&D headquarters to Columbus, Ohio’s only sand 3D printer is housed at Humtown Products, BeAM Machines opened its US subsidiary in Cincinnati, America Makes is part of an additive manufacturing regulatory institute that recently published an AM standardization roadmap, and Dayton’s Proto BuildBar is doing just fine. As the Rust Belt state continues to evolve in the growing Tech Belt, we’re constantly seeing a wide range of 3D printing-related innovations pop up, and this week is no different. Demonstrations and test results of a joint additive manufacturing project between the University of Akron (UA) and Airborne Maintenance and Engineering Services (AMES) were recently showcased at the Wilmington Air Park, where AMES is located.

The goal of the project, a “cold spray” aircraft repair method using Supersonic Particle Deposition (SPD), is safer, faster, and market competitive airplane repairs, with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval. The method would be used to repair worn, corroded parts on commercial aircraft, by rebuilding the surfaces of the parts through metal particle application. The SPD additive manufacturing technique is basically a high-pressure spraying process: metal particles inside a supersonic jet of an expanded gas will hit a solid surface, with enough energy to bond to it. This builds up and fixes the metal part’s surface, without the common issue that welding has of creating a heat-affected zone.

UA’s Dr. Rex Ramsier meets Ohio Senate President Pro Tempore Bob Peterson at the SPD technology demo.

Several members of the Ohio General Assembly, including Ohio Senate President Pro Tempore Bob Peterson and Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives Cliff Rosenberger, were on hand to see the project’s progress at AMES. Development and testing has been ongoing for the last two years; the Ohio Legislature provided funding in its last Operating Budget, with support from UA’s National Center for Education and Research on Corrosion and Materials Performance (NCERCAMP), AMES, the US Technology Corporation, and SAFEngineering, Inc., an R&D, testing, and evaluation company that actually developed the FAA Certification Plan.

Dr. Rex Ramsier, UA’s senior vice president and provost, said, “We are grateful for the support that the state of Ohio has provided for this first phase of the SPD project, which is making significant progress. This partnership brings together the University’s expertise in corrosion and materials science with the extensive experience that our partners have in aviation and technology to create an exciting opportunity for job creation and technological advancement in Ohio.”

This aluminum domino is a before/after demonstration of how the Supersonic Particle Deposition (SPD), also known as Cold Spray, applies metal particles to a worn part, building up and repairing surface damage.

NCERCAMP is the first program of its kind in the country, and was established in 2010 by the DoD and Congress. UA launched an effort in 2006 to help address the cost of corrosion on the US economy, which is thought to be over $400 billion annually. NCERCAMP’s multidisciplinary approach helps both industry and government develop corrosion and materials performance solutions. The collective effort between AMES and UA is creating documented successes with SPD technology and showcasing public-private partnerships.

Greg Smith, director of engineering for AMES, said, “This technology in commercial applications creates significant ongoing opportunities for economic advancement in Ohio through advanced manufacturing and job growth.”

This robotic arm is programmed to apply cold spray technology to repair surfaces of corroded aircraft parts.

The public-private partnership initiative to expand the useful life of aircraft parts could potentially lead to groundbreaking results: the very first FAA certification for full-scale commercial aircraft repair operations. If this goal is achieved, the process applications for the commercial aviation sector are nearly immeasurable. As we have seen, additive manufacturing allows for the repair of critical components not able to be addressed by traditional subtractive methods.

AMES, a maintenance, repair, and overhaul company that operates out of half a million square feet of hangar and component repair/overhaul facilities at southwest Ohio’s Wilmington Air Park, employs over 800 people at the facility, with even more employed at its Tampa location. It’s less than an hour from the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio’s largest single-site employer, which is home to the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) and the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), neither of which are strangers to additive manufacturing technology. The region is working to develop emerging technology to help grow the aviation sector and expand the job market, so the possibility of FAA certification is just another step in the right direction. Discuss in the SPD forum at 3DPB.com.

[Source/Images: University of Akron]


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