The U.S. Army has begun to adopt Advanced Manufacturing as an elegant, efficient solution to readiness and maintenance needs across the force and is ready to take the step from producing additively manufactured parts to certifying and qualifying those parts for use.
Leaders from across the Army gathered at Auburn University June 2 to hear from industry members, academia, and standards-developers on best practices for certifying and qualifying parts produced through additive manufacturing.
The process to certify a part for use is important; Warfighters’ safety and the reliability of military equipment depends upon components that will hold up to the heavy demands that combat operations put them through. When these components are manufactured in a new way, like through additive manufacturing, they are heavily studied and scrutinized against established standards.
“From an engineering-design perspective, a significant benefit to advanced manufacturing is the potential to decrease design limitations imposed by traditional manufacturing methods such as design-for-performance – not just manufacturability,” said Maj. Gen. Darren Werner, Commanding General, U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM). “In the Army, we are working to manufacture parts and components with lighter, stronger materials and produce complex components as one piece, thereby reducing failures while increasing reliability. All of those benefits increase readiness, which gets to the core of our mission.”
The Army leaders heard from the American Society for Testing and Materials, the “international standards organization that develops and publishes voluntary consensus technical standards for a wide range of materials, products, systems, and services,” according to the organization.
In other words, ASTM maintains the standards to which the additively manufactured components and the processes that built them must meet or exceed.
The summit placed a special emphasis on metal additive manufacturing, sometimes called “3D printing” and the special considerations using metal for this process requires.
Michael Cadieux is the Director of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) Ground Vehicle Systems Center. Along with TACOM and its Rock Island Arsenal-Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center, GVSC recently entered an agreement with ASTRO America to build one of the world’s largest 3D printers; a printer large enough to manufacture a ground vehicle’s hull in one piece.
“GVSC remains at the forefront of support to Army’s readiness through our aggressive pursuit of Advanced Manufacturing capability,” said Cadieux. “Advanced Manufacturing’s sustainment efforts, working with our TACOM partners, determine what current parts can be made more efficiently with advanced manufacturing while retaining the quality standards of the original part. Ground-floor prototype design of parts, coding advanced manufacturing equipment, and the process of iterative adjustments to these designs can provide replacement parts more quickly and smoothly through the logistics chain.”
Also presenting at the summit were representatives from General Electric. Representing an industry member who has successfully navigated the certifying and qualifying process for additively manufactured fuel nozzles, GE was able to share their experiences in ensuring their part met the necessary quality standards.
Beyond U.S. Army participants, representatives and subject matter experts attended from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center (NASA has also successfully certified and qualified additively manufactured parts), the Federal Aviation Administration, Auburn University, and Wichita State University.
The RIA-JMTC, host of the Army’s Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence, moderated a panel discussion that included contributions from four of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s centers: the Ground Vehicle Systems Center, Aviation and Missile Center, Chemical Biological Center, and Armaments Center.