Air Force to set up 3D printed supply chain at Tinker AFB – Breaking Defense Breaking Defense
WASHINGTON: For the first time, the Pentagon has certified as airworthy a 3D printed aircraft engine part – an F110 crankcase cover produced as part of the Air Force’s collaborative initiative with General Electric called Pacer Edge.
The next step in the program will see a metal parts additive manufacturing supply chain established at Tinker AFB in Oklahoma, starting with the purchase of two GE printers in fiscal year 2022.
“We will take delivery of two GE Additive machines in the first quarter of FY22 and make them fully operational in the second quarter of FY22,” according to an email response to questions from Breaking D from the Air Force Pacer Edge team in Tinker yesterday. “The program is committed to pushing the boundaries of this revolutionary technology to enhance the capabilities of combatants and meet the challenges of material readiness.”
Pacer Edge is led by the Air Force’s Rapid Sustainability Office (RSO) and the Air Force Lifecycle Management Center’s Propulsion Directorate.
“The Pacer Edge program is an important initiative to reduce risk and showcase the application of additive manufacturing in aerospace. The ability to additively manufacture an aircraft engine part and achieve military airworthiness is an important step forward in adopting additive manufacturing in the Air Force, ”said Nathan Parker, deputy general manager of the program at RSO, in a press release from GE.
“The F110 sump cover was a great scout, allowing us to exercise the USAF airworthiness process. There are many queued parts that are ideal candidates for metal 3D printing. Next, we focus on refining the airworthiness process, so that it is as responsive as the technology, ”added Melanie Jonason, chief engineer of the service’s Propulsion Sustainment division.
While the “Configuration Control Board (CCB) and Airworthiness” approval was inked on Feb.23 for the additively manufactured F110 sump cover, according to the Tinker team email, it did not. ‘was only announced on June 8.
The program was launched with a $ 1.1 million contract with GE in March 2020. A second $ 2.6 million contract was awarded in September 2020, kicking off the 3D printing process. ‘a family of parts on the TF34 engine, in service for over 40 years. years. A third $ 5 million contract was awarded in April, and another $ 5 million contract will be signed later this month, the email added, bringing the total rewards (funded both by RSO and the Propulsion Directorate) to $ 13.76 million.
Although the F110’s crankcase cover is only a small part, it is nonetheless important for the operation of the engine, which is used by both F-15 and F-16 fighter jets. Its airworthiness certification brings the Air Force closer to its goal of expanding the use of 3D printing to improve aircraft readiness. Air Force executives see additive manufacturing as the key to solving serious service challenges in maintaining aging aircraft and infrastructure and reducing costs.
The installation of GE’s 3D printers at Tinker will also advance the AFLMC to establish its own additive manufacturing capabilities in its depots, so the department can print its own spare parts. The Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex in Tinker printed its first metal engine part – for the TF33-P103 engine – last August, and the acquisition will increase its capacity.