3D Systems to make next-gen components for US Air Force

3D Systems is taking part in a $1.3 million contract to manufacture a cutting-edge aircraft heat exchanger using 3D printing.

Washington, DC - 3D Systems (3DS) is taking part in a $1.3 million contract to develop and manufacture a cutting-edge aircraft heat exchanger using 3D printing, according to SPIE. Led by heat exchanger manufacturer Honeywell International, this project will utilize 3DS's Direct Metal Printing technology as well as the additive manufacturing and materials expertise of Penn State's Center for Innovative Materials Processing through Direct Digital Deposition (CIMP-3D). 3DS commented that such qualified use of additive manufacturing “will not only revolutionize jet engine manufacturing, but it will also open this technology to a multibillion-dollar heat exchanger market.”

The project, set to commence in mid-2015, builds off earlier contracts announced in February 2015 to enable wider adoption of 3DS' metal technologies within aerospace companies. Administered by America Makes and funded by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), the contract underscores 3DS' technological leadership and proven defense/aerospace manufacturing track record.

"Additive manufacturing offers design freedoms that are simply not possible using traditional manufacturing processes," says John Wilczynski, America Makes deputy director of technology development. "The teaming by America Makes with industry leaders and researchers that possess substantial experience in heat exchangers and 3D printing will allow us to explore higher-performing and lower-cost conformal parts. As a result, both the Air Force and the defense industry are poised to benefit greatly from this directed project.”

In addition, this effort accelerates validation of 3DS' manufacturing capability and provides America Makes members—including every major US defense and aerospace company—with the hard data necessary to evaluate the technology. Further, it is expected that this project's results could accelerate validation of 3DS' manufacturing capability as a new component of Honeywell's supply chain.

"This contract selection will allow our team to deliver to the Air Force innovative, high-performing heat exchangers, and will provide valuable data on part strength, pressure resistance, and performance," says Neal Orringer, VP of alliances and partnerships at 3DS.

In February 2015, 3DS was awarded two research contracts worth over $1 million to develop advanced aerospace and defense 3D printing manufacturing capabilities “at a convincing scale." The contracts were also administered by America Makes and funded by AFRL. The contracts leveraged 3DS’s selective laser sintering (SLS) and direct metal 3D printing capabilities to meet the high standards of production demanded by the US Air Force.

Together with some military suppliers—including Honeywell, Northrop Grumman, and Lockheed Martin—3DS was contracted to develop a precision closed loop and advanced manufacturing and monitoring platform, designed to deliver the accuracy, functionality, and repeatability specifications demanded for flight-worthy aerospace parts.

The first contract is led by 3DS, in partnership with the University of Delaware’s Center for Composite Manufacturing, Sandia National Laboratory, and Lockheed Martin. The project is designed to integrate predictive technologies with 3DS’ SLS 3D printers to dynamically monitor parts at the layer level during the manufacturing process, ensuring optimum accuracy and repeatability of manufactured aerospace parts.

The second contract, in collaboration with the Applied Research Laboratory of Pennsylvania State University in partnership with Honeywell International and Northrop Grumman, leverages 3DS’ direct metal 3D printing. As a result of this project, aerospace and defense manufacturers are expected to gain full control of the direct metal manufacturing process at the layer level, delivering "fully dense, chemically pure, flightworthy metals parts."

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