Air Force Awards Barnes Global Advisors Contract for 3D Printing Qualification

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The US Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) has awarded The Barnes Global Advisors (TBGA), an additive manufacturing (AM) consultancy headquartered in Pittsburgh, the TEAM RED (Thorough Evaluation of AM with Rigorous Expertise and Data) contract for acceleration of AM standards. TEAM RED is part of the Delta Qualification program at America Makes, the original Manufacturing USA institute based in Youngstown, Ohio.

America Makes announced the Delta Qualification project call in April 2023, with the project’s full title being “Demonstration of Novel Methods for Effective AM Process Qualification/Re-Qualification”. In America Makes’ announcement for the project call, “the Red Team” (Topic 3) description solicited responses for “an approach that includes a metal AM process-specific team to serve as subject matter experts to collect and harmonize AM standards”. Respondents were also asked to “provide a map” that will allow standards organizations to update the language used in future AM process qualification.

For TEAM RED, TBGA has joined forces with SAE International (formerly the Society of Automotive Engineers), as well as an advisory panel that includes representatives from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), BlueForge Alliance (BFA), Sandia National Laboratories, and NASA. TEAM RED will also be working with the six other recipients of the Delta Qualification awards, four of which are members of AM Forward.

Infographic of another DoD project TBGA is working on, the Resilient Manufacturing Ecosystem

In a press release about the award of the TEAM RED contract, TBGA president John Barnes said, “It is a privilege to be chosen by the government to advise them as the independent team. With TEAM RED we pulled together a group that includes TBGA’s experience but also others. A teaming effort was the best way to approach this problem and we’re excited to get going. Qualification is still a struggle for most but it doesn’t have to be. Engineers solve problems and qualify things. Let’s go!”

John Barnes’ enthusiasm for the esoteric ins and outs of AM standardization could be why this is at least the third DoD contract for TBGA and its efforts this year: back in April, DoD awarded the consultancy nearly $2 million for a project to help develop a resilient AM ecosystem (the Resilient Manufacturing Ecosystem (RME) project). TBGA’s role in helping to create the Neighborhood 91 AM campus, which shares space with the Pittsburgh International Airport, was integral to that first contract, and Neighborhood 91 will presumably play a role in TEAM RED’s work, too. The RME project got another huge boost last week, when it was awarded $10 million via passage of the defense appropriations bill.

Anyone who doesn’t think that a US government-backed scale up of AM is already in full swing isn’t paying close attention to AM sector news. In the first place, there are the huge rounds of contracts like those announced in the last couple of weeks by DoD and the Department of Energy (DOE). Secondly, there is the great accumulation of all the “little” contracts like these that will have longstanding impacts far beyond their nominal dollar amount.

With this in mind, it must be stressed, as I did in a post from last week, that you can’t judge what an organization as large as the DoD is doing on an example-by-example basis, but rather must take into account what it does over the span of quarters and years. By that metric, anyone who stands back and reflects on what the DoD has done with AM over the last decade can only conclude that a technology buildup has been successfully executed. Widespread commercialization is the only logical next step.

Images courtesy of The Barnes Global Advisors

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