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Additive manufacturing to make its mark with USAF
The USAF has awarded Essentium a multi-year collaborative contract to accelerate the development and deployment of additive manufacturing (AM) solutions for tooling, ground support, MRO and flight-certified parts for military aircraft and ground vehicles.
This contract is part of a $550 million package in the inaugural Strategic Financing (STRATFI) initiative to identify and advance 'big bet' technologies for the USAF.
An Essentium-USAF project team will test and develop new materials and processes using the Essentium High Speed Extrusion 3D Printing Platform, which offers segment leading print speeds useful for both rapid part production at the point of use and decreasing the time required to certify new materials for use in flight.
Nathan Parker, Deputy PEO in the USAF Rapid Sustainment Office, said: ‘We will work together to drive additive manufacturing technology forward; for faster aircraft repairs that massively reduce time to deliver parts to keep our war fighters ready.’
Essentium claims that the multi-year collaborative contract has the potential to save the USAF and Air National Guard millions of dollars, by ramping up AM production and developing certified materials that will produce consistent quality AM parts at ‘unparalleled speed and economics’.
AM will also help the National Guard advance its ability to speed the production of parts for aging fleets of air and ground vehicles, Essentium noted.
Replacement parts for many elderly aircraft are scarce and expensive with long lead times. The USAF often resorts to cannibalising parts from the aircraft boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.
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