GE Additive and Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research have signed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding as the cornerstone of a new collaborative effort aimed at supporting the U.S. Department of Defense‘s (DoD) accelerated adoption of metal additive manufacturing technology.
Additive manufacturing technology within the commercial and military aerospace and defense sector has grown significantly over the past decade, and in that time, GE and Wichita State’s National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) have worked closely with the DoD, FAA and other stakeholders to accelerate safe adoption of AM for high criticality applications.
“GE has been doing this for a long time, and they have cracked the additive manufacturing code. You can see it in their data and process control,” said John Tomblin, WSU senior vice president for Industry and Defense Programs and NIAR executive director.
“Based on our experience with NIAR’s material qualification capabilities and how they complement our work at GE Additive, we realized the benefits of putting our relationship with NIAR on a more formal footing,” said David Handler, general manager – government business at GE Additive. “We visited the team at Wichita to see their facilities firsthand, and that accelerated our discussions to determine how we can bring our complimentary abilities to bare for the warfighter.”
The partnership will accelerate metal additive adoption within the military aerospace and defense industrial base by advocating for common practices, rapid qualification and certification, and the development of a shared database for additive manufacturing data and knowledge.
GE Additive is a world leader in additive technology, materials science, materials manufacturing, component design, and aerospace qualification. NIAR brings world leadership in aerospace applied research, materials testing and qualification, digital twin, and structural testing and certification. Both parties have been recognized by the DoD as industry leaders: NIAR in developing digital twins of various aging vehicles; and GE Additive in providing metal additive technology to print out-of-production and obsolete spare parts from digital twin data.
“The real beauty about this partnership is bringing the knowledge of the two sides together to advance AM technology to benefit the DoD,” said Tomblin. “The time is now.”
“NIAR’s material database capabilities are an important asset needed to build a comprehensive, secure, accessible, standard format for materials data that all depots can use,” said Handler.
GE Additive and NIAR aim to establish an industry platform that is flexible enough to be used across all branches of the DoD.
“The partnership will accelerate the DoD’s desire to go from old metal to digital and then supply needed spare parts by going from digital back to new metal,” added Handler.
“It is critical that the platform provides quality specifications and material allowables that are naturally integrated into DoD processes and readily available and accessible across the DoD and to its industry partners, when permitted,” said Rachael Andrulonis, NIAR senior research engineer for composites and advanced materials.
Development of the database will also involve the implementation of students in an applied learning capacity, providing a unique new workforce that understands the intricacies of additive manufacturing qualification and implementation.
In order to be an efficient and relevant resource, GE Additive and NIAR plan to move quickly. The partnership and involvement of student employees will allow the team to rapidly develop specifications to convert metal to digital and digital to metal – part by part.
“GE realizes the importance of investment in these platforms,” said Handler. “It correlates directly: the broader the scope of parts, the broader the scope of the partnership, the broader scope of sustainment solutions for the warfighter.”
Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research provides research, testing, certification and training for aviation and manufacturing technologies. Established in 1985, NIAR has a +$190 million annual budget; 975 employees and nearly 1.6 million square feet of laboratory and office space in six locations across the city of Wichita, the Air Capital of the World. NIAR laboratories include Additive Manufacturing, Advanced Coatings, Advanced Manufacturing, Ballistics/Impact Dynamics, Composites/Advanced Materials, Crash Dynamics, Digital Twin, Engineering Design/Modification, Environmental/ Electromagnetic Test, Full-Scale Structural Test, Nondestructive Test, Reverse Engineering, Robotics/Automation, Virtual Engineering, eXtended Reality and the Walter H. Beech Wind Tunnel.
About GE Additive
GE Additive – part of GE (NYSE: GE) is a world leader in metal additive design and manufacturing, a pioneering process that has the power and potential to transform businesses. Through our integrated offering of additive experts, advanced machines, and quality powders, we empower our customers to build innovative new products. Products that solve manufacturing challenges, improve business outcomes, and help change the world for the better. GE Additive includes additive machine brands Concept Laser and Arcam EBM, along with additive powder supplier AP&C.