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AM in Aerospace and Defense at RAPID + TCT 2024

Additive manufacturing (AM), also known as 3D printing, continues to redefine the landscape of manufacturing by building parts through the addition of material, often layer by layer. The processes that make up AM, especially within the realm of metal processing, have undergone considerable expansion and refinement over the last several years. The aerospace and defense sectors, in particular, have heavily invested in AM technologies, captivated by the unprecedented commercial and performance benefits they offer. The allure of AM lies in its capacity to fabricate complex structures previously deemed unachievable through conventional methods, enabling rapid production, and the utilization of challenging materials. This evolution has sparked a wave of enthusiasm among designers and engineers, keen to explore the boundaries of what's possible with AM. Discover the latest advancements and glimpse into the future of additive manufacturing at RAPID + TCT 2024, where the industry's state-of-the-art is showcased.

Keynote to Catch:
Learn more about Relativity Space’s Factory of the Future, including the world’s largest metal 3D printer, Stargate, from Josh Brost, Chief Revenue Officer at Relativity Space.
June 25, 2024, 1:00 PM to 1:45 PM

AM's Impact on Aerospace

In aerospace, AM presents myriad opportunities—from reducing costs and lead times, to employing novel materials and achieving weight reduction through lightweighting. Its application spans aero engine manufacture, liquid-fueled rocket engines, satellite applications, and the maintenance of legacy flight systems, proving its versatility and essential role in the value chain.

The precision of powder bed fusion processes, including Laser Powder Bed Fusion (L-PBF) and Electron Beam Powder Bed Fusion (EB-PBF) are complemented by high-throughput Directed Energy Deposition (DED) processes. This diversity of AM technologies allows it to cater to both small complex parts and larger geometries. AM can help to dramatically improve buy-to-fly ratios and minimize material waste, a critical environmental consideration.

The design flexibility that AM affords—demonstrated spectacularly by the consolidation of components in the GE LEAP Engine nozzle—underscores its ability to revolutionize manufacturing timelines, reduce costs, and eliminate potential failure points. AM can be used to not only conserve or enhance thermomechanical properties but also to significantly cut down weight, a crucial advantage in aerospace design.

For more on AM in Aerospace, check out Andrew Hnat from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc’s presentation: Vertical Integration and Additive Manufacturing —A Strategy for Speed
Jun 25, 2024, 11:00 AM to 11:30 AM

Bridging AM into Defense

The defense sector benefits uniquely from AM, where the stakes of production speed, lightweighting, and supply chain management can literally mean the difference between life and death. The production of spare parts on-demand and in-theater is a revolutionary advantage, simplifying logistical burdens and enhancing operational readiness.

AM's application in sensors and sensing expands the capabilities of body-borne and wearable electronics, crucial for real-time battlefield tracking, threat detection, and medical monitoring. The flexibility of multi-material AM and additively manufactured electronics presents new opportunities for durable and effective sensor technologies.

Moreover, the exploration of energetic materials (EMs) through AM opens new avenues for research into propellants, explosives, and pyrotechnics, with the potential for significantly improved performance characteristics without altering material compositions. This research is pivotal for both offensive and defensive capabilities, offering enhanced ballistic resistance and protective measures.

Check out defense presentations across all three days of the RAPID + TCT conference, including:
David Alfano US Army - DEVCOM Armaments Center
Application of Additive Manufacturing to Armament Systems
Jun 26, 2024, 11:00 AM to 11:30 AM

Challenges and Future Directions

Despite the proven technological capabilities of AM, the qualification and certification of parts, especially for mission-critical applications, remain significant challenges. The aerospace and defense sectors rightly demand rigorous standards to ensure the reliability and consistency of AM-produced parts. As AM technologies continue to mature, tighter control over processing parameters will likely bolster confidence in these parts for strategic applications.

The ongoing development of AM materials, including aluminum alloys, titanium alloys, refractory and other historically hard-to-process alloys, is crucial for pushing the boundaries of what's possible, enabling more efficient, durable, and innovative applications in aerospace and defense.

Roadmap to Greater Adoption

Additive manufacturing stands at the forefront of a manufacturing revolution, with its impact on the aerospace and defense industries already profound and growing. As AM continues to evolve, its potential to reshape these sectors, from design and production to repair and maintenance, is unlimited.

The exploration of new materials and the push for standardization and qualification will further solidify AM's role as a cornerstone of modern manufacturing. The very nature of the aerospace and defense sectors means that getting to see the cutting-edge of AM adoption is a challenge — the benefits conferred are matters of corporate viability and national security. RAPID + TCT provides a rare opportunity to hear from and network with the users pioneering these high-stakes applications.

Understand how the US Marine Corps are scaling its AM capability and discover a roadmap for future development with William Cuervo, Vice President of Sales North America at 3YOURMIND:
Jun 27, 2024, 11:30 AM to 12:00 PM