AFRL Materials and Manufacturing Directorate Open House highlights a century of success

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – More than 200 guests, family members and friends of the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Materials and Manufacturing Directorate were treated to a day of science and technology at the inaugural RX Open House, April 7. 

Part of the AFRL Heritage Celebration, the Open House was an opportunity to showcase some of the state-of-the-art technologies under development at the directorate, which celebrates its 100 year anniversary this year.

“Today was a huge success, and we showcased some of our best work to our family and friends,” said Col. Charles Ormsby, acting director, Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, whose wife and daughter participated in the festivities. “For the past 100 years, the scientists and engineers at RX have provided innovative, state-of-the-art materials and technologies for our warfighters. We are delighted that we could highlight some of our stellar work here for so many people."

The festivities kicked-off with the premiere of the new directorate video, highlighting the evolution of the lab from the Materials Branch at McCook Field in 1917 through today. Thomas Lockhart, the director of the Materials and Manufacturing Laboratory who is currently deployed in Afghanistan, also made a ‘guest’ appearance through the power of video technology, wishing teams well as they began the day’s events.

“What a great turnout,” said Lockhart, as the camera panned the room, “Congratulations on a great success!”

More than 12 different laboratories opened their doors to guests, highlighting everything from basic research in new technologies to the support directorate teams provide to fielded platforms.

The structural materials division demonstrated augmented reality and robotics for nondestructive evaluation and aircraft inspection through the use of a modified Microsoft HoloLens, and highlighted the potential for sophisticated metal alloys to augment high temperature, hypersonic flying platforms of the future. The functional materials division highlighted work in liquid crystals, nanodiamonds and liquid metals for novel applications in electronics and communications for the Air Force.

The Manufacturing and Industrial Base Technologies Division, also known as ‘ManTech,’ showcased a number of technologies that the directorate is working to transition into the industrial base for sustainment, such as additively manufactured tools for composite manufacturing and a model of the AgilePod intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance system.

A special Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) outreach area focused on the youngest Open House guests, provided hands-on opportunities for children to explore 3-D printing, aerodynamics and the use of a Scanning Electron Microscope, with the goal of inspiring future interest in careers in the science arena.

“We had a lot of interested, engaged young minds participate,” said Manny Gonzales, a research materials engineer in the structural materials division, who dedicated his day to managing the STEM space. “Our goal is to inspire future generations with the great work we do here so that we can create a science-minded constituency for the future.”

With a history that can be traced back all the way to the origins of flight with Wilbur and Orville Wright in the early 1900s, the AFRL Materials and Manufacturing Directorate has played a major role in building the U.S. Air Force into the powerhouse it is today. Through basic research and material and processing technology development to the creation of next-generation technologies for future platforms, the directorate’s influence is evident across the spectrum.

The Open House is just one of a number of planned events celebrating the 100 years of contributions of the elite scientists and engineers of the directorate, which will continue to play an integral role in air power for centuries to come.