DAYTON, Ohio – The Air Force Research Laboratory’s Maker Hub held its grand opening on October 27, 2016 at the Wright Brothers Institute’s Tec^Edge facility in Dayton.
The Maker Hub allows researchers to take an idea, design and build a rapid prototype, then test it. The facility offers many advanced manufacturing technologies in desktop form such as 3-D printers, computer numerical control mills, a laser cutter, and sewing machine.
“We are really getting back to the core of engineering and the roots of what all of our researchers really want to do, said the director of the AFRL Maker Hub, Dr. Emily Fehrman Cory. “We are giving our researchers the resources to find those new commercial applications for our military use technologies. Sometimes we get a little caught up doing the high-tech stuff that takes years and years so what we are doing here is giving them the opportunity to work with their hands and build something very rapidly and getting to that next solution or step. At the Maker Hub, we can figure out if it is feasible to manufacture it and if there is a market for it,” Fehrman Cory said.
According to Fehrman Cory, at the Maker Hub, researchers also have the opportunity to develop new skills, learn about rapid prototyping, and to ultimately look at how products made inside the Air Force can get into manufacturing.
“One of the Maker Hub’s mission is to see military technologies from AFRL become commercialized and to be useful to the general public,” Fehrman Cory said.
Another mission of the Maker Hub is to find ways to interact with the local community. Fehrman Cory is currently researching ways to use the Maker Hub to engage with entrepreneurs, small businesses and technologists that are in Dayton and the surrounding areas and bringing them in to work with AFRL.
AFRL Structural fatigue researcher engineer, 1st Lt. Kyle Matissek, came to the open house to learn about 3-D printing.
“I want to teach myself how to use the 3-D printer,” Matissek said. “There are definitely opportunities here. The machine and materials are here and the people who know how to use them are here.”
Matissek said the structural integrity of 3-D printing is one of his concerns as the performance characteristics of an optimized 3-D printed part are quite different than a part constructed by more traditional methods.
“For instance, 3-D printed parts struggle to match the performance of traditionally constructed parts in turbine engines, where the parts experience very high temperatures, forces, and cyclic loading. There are major advantages to 3-D printed parts compared to traditional methods such as time to manufacture, mobility of production line and skill required. As time progresses, the 3-D printing process will be improved to meet even more needs of industry,” Matissek said.
Matissek said with the 3-D printers available at the Maker Hub, he can learn the process and appreciate the struggles of 3-D part manufacturing in industry.
The AFRL Maker Hub is available at no cost to all Wright-Patterson AFB personnel, including military, civilians and contractors and is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., open houses are held to tour the facility and are open to the public.
For additional information on AFRL’s Maker Hub, visit the Maker Hub website at afrlmakerhub.com.