MSAM partners with The Barnes Global Advisors to reach the Advanced Manufacturing Olympics Podium

The Rapid Sustainment Office (RSO) of the U.S. Air Force organized the inaugural Advanced Manufacturing Olympics (AMO) in October 2020 to seek identify, apply, and scale technology essential to the operation and sustainment of the U.S. Air Force. One of the four major events within the inaugural AMO was the Materials Hurdles challenge. The goal of this challenge was to identify and demonstrate new aluminium materials that will further the additive manufacturing (AM) industry. The emphasis was on the ability to identify new high strength aluminium alloys that can push the envelope of materials currently used by the U.S. Air Force. The incoming applications were judged based on the ingenuity and ease of use of the proposed solutions.

There were numerous applications from multiple North American organizations to enter this event, out of which our Multi-Scale Additive Manufacturing team in collaboration with The Barnes Global Advisors (TBGA) was selected to be one of the 10 finalists. The U.S. Air Force typically deploys AM Ti-6Al-4V (a titanium alloy) to substitute for conventional high strength aluminium alloys such as Al 7075 or Al 7050. This substitution is primarily due to tendency of the conventional high strength aluminum alloys to crack during AM.

The team members during one of their video conversations. (Clockwise) Cynthia Rogers, Sagar Patel, Kevin Slattery, Mihaela Vlasea, and John Barnes.

The team of Sagar Patel and Mihaela Vlasea (from MSAM) and John Barnes and Kevin Slattery (from TBGA) proposed the AM of Scalmalloy® using the laser powder bed fusion (LPBF) technology for the challenge. The challenge kicked off on July 31st following which there was a timeline of less than 3 weeks for our collaborative team to source the powder and complete the manufacturing of numerous artifacts by August 19. The powders, supplied to us by Toyal America, arrived at MSAM on August 12, and we managed to complete the entire chain of process parameter development and printing artifacts within a week to ship samples out on time. The use of physics-driven processing diagrams, temperature prediction models, and beam path planning technologies developed by our group through previously published efforts aided us to meet the challenge requirements successfully.

Compression testing of one of the artifacts at the U.S. Air Force facility that was showcased live during the AMO

The Scalmalloy® artifacts printed at MSAM and shipped to the U.S. Air Force

The artifacts by the 10 finalists were then judged by the U.S. Air Force for tensile performance, buildability, surface roughness, porosity, microstructure, and compression performance along with considerations given to the novelty of the material and ingenuity of the manufacturing solution proposed. Our team was humbled with a silver medal!

The AMO medal and a commemorative coin; Renishaw AM 400 system that was used for the competition

Disclaimer: Part of this content was previously published in the Engineering news webpage.