and Wichita State University’s
National Institute for Aviation Research have signed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding as the cornerstone of a new collaborative effort aimed at supporting the US Department of Defense‘s (DoD) accelerated adoption of metal additive manufacturing (AM) technology.
Adoption of AM within the commercial and military aerospace and defense sector has grown significantly during the past decade, and in that time, GE and Wichita State’s National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) have worked closely with the DoD, the Federal Aviation Administration and other stakeholders to accelerate safe adoption of AM for ‘high-criticality’ applications.
John Tomblin, WSU senior vice president for Industry and Defense Programs and NIAR executive director, said: “GE has been doing this for a long time, and they have cracked the AM code. You can see it in their data and process control.”
David Handler, general manager — government business at GE Additive, said: “Based on our experience with NIAR’s material qualification capabilities and how they complement our work at GE Additive, we realised the benefits of putting our relationship with NIAR on a more formal footing.
“We visited the team at Wichita to see their facilities firsthand, and that accelerated our discussions to determine how we can bring our complimentary abilities to bare for the military.”
The partnership will accelerate metal AM adoption within the military aerospace and defense industrial base by advocating for common practices, rapid qualification and certification, and the development of a shared database for AM data and knowledge.
GE Additive is a world-leader in additive technology, materials science, materials manufacturing, component design, and aerospace qualification. NIAR brings world leadership in aerospace applied research, materials testing and qualification, digital twin, and structural testing and certification.
Both parties have been recognised by the DoD as industry leaders: NIAR in developing digital twins of various ageing vehicles; and GE Additive in providing metal additive technology to print out-of-production and obsolete spare parts from digital twin data.
Mr Tomblin continued: “The real beauty about this partnership is bringing the knowledge of the two sides together to advance AM technology to benefit the DoD — the time is now.”
Mr Handler added: “NIAR’s material database capabilities are an important asset needed to build a comprehensive, secure, accessible, standard format for materials data that all depots can use. The partnership will accelerate the DoD’s desire to go from old metal to digital and then supply needed spare parts by going from digital back to new metal.”
GE Additive and NIAR aim to establish an industry platform that is flexible enough to be used across all branches of the DoD.
Rachael Andrulonis, NIAR senior research engineer for composites and advanced materials, said: “It is critical that the platform provides quality specifications and material allowables that are naturally integrated into DoD processes and readily available and accessible across the DoD and to its industry partners, when permitted.”
Development of the database will also involve the implementation of students in an applied learning capacity, providing a unique new workforce that understands the intricacies of additive manufacturing qualification and implementation.
In order to be an efficient and relevant resource, GE Additive and NIAR plan to move quickly. The partnership and involvement of student employees will allow the team to rapidly develop specifications to convert metal to digital and digital to metal — part by part.
Mr Handler concluded: “GE realises the importance of investment in these platforms. It correlates directly: the broader the scope of parts, the broader the scope of the partnership, the broader scope of sustainment solutions for the military.”