US Navy eyes metallic 3D printing with $2.6m deal for CTC

The US Office of Naval Research has awarded Concurrent Technologies Corporation (CTC) a $2.6 million two-year contract to supply technology solutions that will ensure the manufacturability of metallic parts from additive manufacturing (AM) machines.

The contract, awarded through the Quality Metal Additive Manufacturing (Quality MADE) program, could move the US Navy closer to being able to build parts for critical naval applications, further bolstering fleet readiness.

CTC also anticipates a two-year option for $3.8 million that will further demonstrate AM, also known as 3D printing.

According to the US Navy, AM is necessary to cut back on the time and costs associated with deploying qualified, certified AM metallic components for naval air, sea, and ground platforms. AM is an emerging technology that allows engineers to make one or two parts instead of mass quantities in a cost-effective manner.

The navy eyes building parts onboard ships at sea for aircraft to avoid the challenge of storing components and large parts on ships and aircraft. The navy is also interested in shortening the acquisition timeline, broadening the industrial supply base, and having the ability to produce parts on demand at Fleet Readiness Centers (FRCs), CTC said.

“In a February 2017 statement, the vice chiefs of America’s armed forces said their personnel and aging equipment are stretched thin amid years of war, statutory budget caps and temporary workarounds, end-strength cuts, and Congress passing continuing resolutions. In response to this need, Concurrent Technologies Corporation and its integrated project team members are providing new technology that can address the short- and long-term challenge of replacing aging or broken parts literally on site,” Edward J. Sheehan, Jr., President and CEO, Concurrent Technologies Corporation, said.

“Aging naval platforms are being challenged by dwindling traditional sources of supply, which reduces readiness and causes unacceptable logistical delays. In response to this need, the Naval Warfare Centers, maintenance depots, and FRCs plan to use additive manufacturing to produce small quantities of out-of-production or long lead-time metallic components,” according to the Office of Naval Research.

Ken Sabo, Senior Director, Additive Manufacturing and Materials, Concurrent Technologies Corporation, said the project team will develop and demonstrate a suite of additive manufacturing software and hardware technologies required to support the rapid qualification of critical metallic components at a reduced cost.

“Microstructure-property evolution and its in-process control are not well established for additive manufacturing of metallic parts compared to traditional metal processing. Our goal is to address these gaps and ensure that parts produced throughout the US Navy consistently perform as intended,” Sabo explained.

“The team will produce metal parts using laser powder-bed fusion to develop and validate a proposed frameworkTeam members will include Concurrent Technologies Corporation, SLM Solutions N.A., MSC Software, MRL Materials Resources LLC, the University of Pittsburgh, and America Makes,” Sabo further said.