America Makes Project Call: 3D Printed Optical Components to Support US Air Force

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Ohio-based America Makes, a top collaborative partner in the US for 3D printing technology discovery, innovation, and research, just announced its latest Project Call – Additive for eXtreme Improvement in Optical Mounts (AXIOM) – to seek additive manufacturing solutions for making high-precision optical components in order to support the US Air Force in its technological advancements.

“The AXIOM Project Call represents an incredible opportunity to advance both AM design and materials technologies given the geometric complexity and performance requirements of high-precision optical components. The America Makes membership community is well positioned to deliver an innovative additively manufactured alternative. As a result, the USAF stands to attain significant gains in technological advancement, readiness, performance, reliability, lifespan, and production lead times,” said Brandon Ribic, PhD, Technology Director for America Makes.

The AXIOM Project Call is being funded by Ohio’s Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, Manufacturing and Industrial Base Technology Division, which has turned to 3D printing in the past. Together with the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (NCDMM), which manages America Makes, AFRL is looking to make roughly $560,000 available in order to fund an award with, as an America Makes press release states, “at least $280K in matching cost-share funds from the awarded project team for total funding worth $840K.”

“This is a tremendous opportunity for America Makes to support key initiatives and critical capabilities as outlined in the USAF’s Science and Technology Strategy, a 10-year blueprint to maintaining its strategic and operational advantages. The AXIOM Project Call will enable the USAF to continue to leverage disruptive innovations, remain ahead of rapidly developing state and military competitors, and contribute to our nation’s defense security,” stated America Makes Executive Director John Wilczynski.

America Makes is looking for solutions that will enhance readiness of highly precise optical components that are used in space systems and sensors. To do so, novel 3D printable designs will need to be created and demonstrated. This type of component needs many features, including dimensional tolerances, coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE), stiffness, thermal management, and weight, to be accurate in order to work. Designs that meet these exacting requirements typically have materials, geometric features, and methods of fabrication that cause vulnerabilities in the supply chain and increase lead time and costs.

The AXIOM Project Call is looking to use more innovative, 3D printed approaches to get past these issues. In comparison to off-the-shelf products, optical components that pair AM with novel materials and/or designs can offer more reliability.

Technical requirements for the AXIOM Project Call relate specifically to the America Makes Technology Roadmap, just like the rest of the organization’s project calls. The roadmap pinpoints concepts that would be best researched in a public-private partnership, and distinguishes measurable challenges that will promote technical advancements and knowledge sharing within the industry once they’ve been met.

This coming Tuesday, May 12, at 2 pm EST, America Makes will be holding a Project Call Kick-Off webinar, followed by a brief Q&A session. Answers to these questions will be posted to the site by Friday, May 22. You can register for the webinar here.

You can see all of the specifics of the AXIOM Project Call in the Request for Proposal (RFP) document on the website, but above are the important dates. Lead proposing organizations need to become an America Makes member by Friday, June 5, 2020, though not all team participants must be members, and proposals are due no later than 5 pm EDT on Monday, June 8, 2020. Submissions need to be emailed to [email protected], with the subject line “America Makes AXIOM PROJECT PROPOSAL.” Award notifications will take place by Friday, June 19, 2020, and the project will likely begin in August 2020.

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