Metals Affordability Initiative Hub enhances data exchange for researchers, teams

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Sifting through tons of data is a time-consuming, cumbersome process for focused research teams.  How does a person find what they really need?  


The Air Force Research Laboratory is working to streamline that process for researchers across the spectrum.


The Metals Affordability Initiative (MAI) is an AFRL-led consortium comprised of 16 original equipment manufacturers, component manufacturers, and metals producers, intended to be a collaborative platform that helps exchange information between the materials suppliers and the OEMs.


MAI is dedicated to reducing metallic aircraft component costs and accelerating component implementation for military aircraft.


MAIhub is a collaborative tool that enables researchers to rapidly exchange information with materials suppliers and primary manufacturers.  A compilation of useful data enables research to be on the forefront.  As researchers create new test data and generate new materials requirements, the MAIhub provides a mechanism that can streamline the information exchange process. 


“There is no rocket science here,” said Clare Paul, the team lead for Applications and Analytics in the Materials Branch, Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, AFRL. “This is networking at its peak. Technology has evolved to the point where information and data is developed rapidly and needs to be shared. The MAIhub is a platform that can help.”


Similar in concept to an online retailer such as Amazon, the hub is a web-based program that acts as a virtual collaborative environment where researchers can share thoughts, ideas, files and data. Materials suppliers enter materials information data that is imported into the hub. The information is then indexed so it can be accessed through a search utility.  Each time a user makes a material selection relative to certain criteria, data matching the inputs is generated automatically by the system, eliminating unnecessary returns and expediting the process.


It brings a community together and assists with the human-to-human operability.  As researchers work together on a particular technology, they are able to share results and apply newly learned technology development activities across their own organizations, expediting the materials development process.


“It really comes down to cost savings and time reduction,” said Paul. “Our users really see the value in the hub, and we want to see it really grow.”


The program is based on the Vehicle Forge system, a creation of Vanderbilt University, which is a collaborative environment for people who design vehicles, such as the Humvee.


Though the hub was initially developed for scientists, engineers and technical activities in the MAI consortium, Paul’s team is working to increase the scope of users to include the entire Air Force science community for an abundance of data exchange.


MAIhub is a science and engineering collaboration that is changing the way researchers network, collaborate and move science forward.


“Gather a few people together to tweak an existing application, and you just made something that really is valuable to the user community,” said Paul.  “Each contributor in the aerospace supply chain has achieved a tremendous record of technology transfer and cost-reduction impact.”