Direct Digital Manufacturing Initiative

NCMS Project #: 140934

Problem: Direct Digital Manufacturing (DDM), also known as additive manufacturing, is universally recognized as a disruptive and enabling technology with the potential to revolutionize manufacturing and production of complex, costly components needed for the sustainment of equipment. This manufacturing system can lengthen the productive lifespan of the aircraft, keep the system readier during its life cycle, as well as keep pilots and maintenance crew safe. DDM fabricated aerospace components have the potential to overcome many of these issues that confront Army Aviation, but the technology lacks proven engineering design and analysis tools, well populated historical databases, fully developed specifications fixed processes, and production-tested equipment. Improved manufacturing equipment, modeling and simulation programs for process development, quality control and validation are needed.

Benefit: With the certification of secured digital files, the validation of the production process, and the testing of the part, U.S. industries could create replacement parts within hours or days when typically, it takes weeks or months to get them shipped from the manufacturer. With the goal of mission readiness as well as investigating cost savings measures, the DoD is the perfect organization to delve into the possibilities of DDM. With multiple aircraft in the fleet, both helicopter, fixed wing, and unmanned, there are numerous parts that would be candidates for DDM. In the maintenance and sustainment environment DDM could allow for streamlined inventory measures, quick part builds, and a much longer lifecycle for legacy as well as specialty equipment.

Solution/Approach: This initiative will incorporate a phased approach, broken into 4 years/phases. Years/Phases I and II have been successfully completed. Years/Phased III and IV are the focus of this initiative. The overall objectives of this initiative are the following:

  • Identify ideal candidate parts for DDM for the T700 engine that can also be leveraged to future engine programs where the true benefits of additive can be realized.
  • Improve as-manufactured surface finish to eliminate mechanical property knockdowns and enable lightweight designs.
  • Increase DDM manufacturing throughput to reduce the cost of implementing and benefiting from DDM on all engine programs.
  • Determine process tolerance capability and improve it to enable design for DDM.
  • Optimize the DDM build process by performing trial builds, evaluating the DDM manufactured parts.
  • using optical metrology and using the results to further optimize the process.
  • Develop a production process.
  • Produce a single lot pilot lot of DDM parts.

Impact on Warfighter:

  • Improved warfighter readiness
  • Reduced maintenance costs

DOD Participation:

  • U.S. Army

Industry Participation:

  • GE Aviation
  • NCMS

Benefit Area(s):

  • Cost savings
  • Obsolescence management and continued maintenance capability
  • Improved readiness
  • Lightweighting

Focus Area:

  • Additive/advanced manufacturing