FAA awards $7.3 million to NIAR for additive manufacturing, advanced materials research



The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently awarded $7.3 million to Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) for advanced materials research, providing significant funding for additive and other advanced manufacturing research programs, ranging from qualification and characterization to specialized programs that address specific technical challenges.

The funding, which was awarded through WSU’s Center for Excellence for Composites and Advanced Materials (CECAM) includes $3 million for Additive Manufacturing Guidance for Aircraft Design and Certification.

This program expands the work of the highly successful National Center for Advanced Materials Performance (NCAMP), also headquartered at NIAR. NCAMP works with the FAA, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, and industry partners to qualify material systems and populate shared materials databases and guidelines that can be viewed publicly. NCAMP was established in 2005 to reduce the amount of time and money required to certify an aircraft material system.

“NCAMP has a proven track record for qualifying multiple material types, including additive manufacturing products,” said Rachael Andrulonis, senior research engineer for Composites and Advanced Materials at NIAR. “We are now collaborating with industry leaders to build on the NCAMP framework in order to safely and efficiently qualify new advanced materials produced through additive manufacturing for use in aircraft components and structures.”

This new line of funding will support seven additional research programs, including qualification and long-term safety of ceramic matrix composites, qualification of thermoplastic discontinuous fiber composites, and quality assurance of automated fiber placement slit tape, among others.

Additional programs supported by the new CECAM funding include:

  • Effects on the use of cleaning and disinfectants chemicals / processes in the mechanical and flammability characteristics of aircraft interior
  • Development of Guidance for Technical Standard Order for Composite Materials
  • Ceramic Matrix Composite (CMC) Materials Guidelines for Aircraft Design and Certification
  • Advanced Fiber Reinforced Polymer Composite Materials for Aircraft Design, Certification and Process Control
  • Development of Higher-Level Building Block Testing Standards
  • Development for Process Specification and Quality Assurance of Slit Tape for Automated Fiber Placement
  • Evaluation of Aged Structural Bonds on Rotor Blades
  • Electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing (eVTOL) Crashworthiness: An Integrated Safety Approach

These programs all align with the key FAA initiatives of safety, certification and workforce education.

“Wichita State is proud to continue our strong partnership with the FAA through new research programs in emerging technology areas such as additive manufacturing," said John Tomblin, WSU senior vice president for Industry and Defense Programs and NIAR executive director. “NIAR strongly supports the FAA’s mission of safety and efficiency, and we’re excited to continue to perform applied research programs that provide advanced material guidance and data to the FAA and the aviation industry.”

CECAM was established in 2004 as part of the FAA Joint Centers of Excellence for Advanced Materials (JAMS) to assist in ensuring the application of safe and reliable composites and advanced materials in commercial aircraft. CECAM is headquartered at WSU-NIAR. Additional core members include Auburn University, University of California, University of Delaware, Mississippi State University, Northwestern University, Purdue University and Tuskegee University.

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