Metal Additive Manufacturing to Get New Look from ONR, Industry and Academia

On July 15th the Office of Naval Research (ONR) will host an Industry Day with businesses and academia to discuss the organization's interest in a new metal additive manufacturing (AM) program set to begin in 2016.

The Industry Day will be held in advance of a government announcement this September to formally solicit proposals. It will spotlight ONR's requirements and the solicitation process, and encourage participants to think about ways they could improve existing metal additive manufacturing technology.

Additive manufacturing could represent the future of industrial manufacturing, especially for military hardware. Picture a scenario where a maintenance depot on a military base needs a certain part to finish a repair job. Unfortunately, the part is obsolete and no longer available from suppliers.

No problem. The technician on duty simply loads a digital file containing specs about the original part into a specialized 3-D printer, which then lays down ultra-thin layers of metal atop each other until a brand-new part is produced on the spot. This process could dramatically reduce the cost, time and materials needed to manufacture new equipment parts.

Currently, many additive-manufactured parts are largely made from plastics, but lack the required material properties for many demanding military applications. However, high-precision metal is becoming a more attractive option as industry and the military take a closer look at additive manufacturing. During this process, electron beams or lasers are used to melt layers of metallic powder or wire into the desired shape.

One benefit is that manufacturers can tailor a part in ways not possible with traditional metal casting. For example, a turbine blade could be optimized on one end for strength and on the other for heat resistance. A big concern, however, is determining which metal type offers the ideal blend of durability and versatility.

"Additive manufacturing could be a more efficient, cost-effective way of producing parts for equipment such as submarines and other vessels, aircraft or ground vehicles," said Program Manager Billy Short, who works in ONR's Expeditionary Maneuver Warfare and Combating Terrorism Department. "Right now, we're seeking new ideas on how to improve quality and reliability by additively manufacturing parts that are currently metal cast, such as impellers, engine mounts and transmission housings.

"We're developing quality AM metal processes for naval applications with titanium, aluminum and stainless-steel alloys," he continued. "Ideally, we would one day like to see additive manufacturing machines built that could be placed on vessels and perform well even in the toughest sea conditions, but that is another technical leap beyond this current program."

The Department of the Navy's Office of Naval Research provides the science and technology necessary to maintain the Navy and Marine Corps' technological advantage. Through its affiliates, ONR is a leader in science and technology with engagement in 50 states, 55 countries, 634 institutions of higher learning and nonprofit institutions, and more than 960 industry partners. ONR, through its commands, including headquarters, ONR Global and the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., employs more than 3,800 people, comprising uniformed, civilian and contract personnel.

The event will start at 9 a.m. and will be held in Chantilly, Virginia. The deadline to register is 5 p.m. EST on Friday, July 10.

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