AFLCMC leads efforts to get additive manufacturing products to the field

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio - The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center's Product Support Engineering Division, is using the new manufacturing technique of additive manufacturing to get important parts and equipment to the field.

AM is different than traditional subtractive manufacturing, according to Debbie Naguy, division leader, in that additive starts with a Computer Aided Design model and builds a product by adding material layer by layer, whereas traditional manufacturing techniques start with a solid piece of material and then remove excess material.

Using additive manufacturing machines AFLCMC engineers are piloting low risk parts and developing instructions to enable duplication of these additively manufactured components on multiple 3D printers, in multiple locations. The goal is publish the instructions so that AM users throughout the Air Force will be able to follow and build/replace parts on their aircraft and supporting equipment, Naguy added.

The work the AFLCMC team is doing with AM will help the Air Force meet critical needs, she said. For instance as aircraft age, parts that need to be replaced are often no longer being made and cannot be salvaged from other aircraft. AM will potentially allow the Air Force to cost effectively replace the parts to meet the required lead time.

While Air Force Research Laboratory continues to work to improve AM technology through research and development, AFLCMC’s immediate focus is on building standard processes, while qualifying and certifying additive manufacturing products for non-flight critical applications throughout the Air Force.

“With additive manufacturing, the long range possibilities are almost unlimited,” said Kyle Singer, Sustainment Engineer. “I can create a part out of additive manufacturing that has characteristics or geometry that you could never get with traditional manufacturing. Your imagination is the limit. The work will change the way the Air Force operates.”