UAMMI, Impossible Objects manufactures composite parts for the US Air Force

UAMMI is using Impossible Objects’ composite 3D printing technology to manufacture 3D printed carbon fiber/thermoplastic replacement parts for aircraft defense.

The Utah Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Program (UAMMI; Caseville, Utah, USA) announced that it has successfully created and assembled its first carbon fiber 3D printing unit for the US Air Force. The unit is a first aid kit restraint for the B-1 aircraft at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., and is manufactured using a printer from project partner Impossible Objects (Northbrook, Ill.).

A year ago, UAMMI received federal funding to manufacture carbon fiber composite parts for the US Air Force. The goal is to replace broken parts on old traditional aircraft. Over the past year, UAMMI has been working with the Air Force to identify non-critical components that can be replaced with additive manufacturing techniques, including the restraint belt for the B-1 aircraft first aid kit. In many of these aircraft, the Air Force experienced a failure of the original restraint belt, which may result in the removal of the first aid kit during the flight. Since the original replacement tape is no longer manufactured, it takes a lot of cost and waits for the time to produce new parts by conventional means.

Using Impossible Objects’ composite-based additive manufacturing (CBAM) technology, UAMMI has produced replacement parts using carbon fiber and thermoplastic materials. Last month, the unit was inspected on a B-1 aircraft at Tinker Air Force Base. Installation of the components includes the addition of new rivet holes, the insertion of a buckle in the belt cavity and the fastening of the strap to the cockpit wall.

Subsequent steps in this section include fire, smoke and toxicity testing at the National Aviation Institute of Wichita State University (NIAR; Wichita, Kan.), followed by the US Air Force approval process, and then installed into the running B-1 machine. In the team.

The additive manufacturing project is funded by the US Air Force Research Laboratory under the US manufacturing program, which is called Low Cost Maintenance Advanced Manufacturing Maturity (MAMLS). Through MAMLS, the Air Force intends to demonstrate that additive manufacturing can be used to replace non-critical components on demand. Of particular interest are instrument knobs, harnesses, small brackets, electrical connectors and the like.

“Additive manufacturing offers tremendous opportunities for advanced manufacturing in Utah,” said UAMMI executive director Jeff Edwards. “The composite additive components we created for the Air Force will greatly reduce the time and cost of aircraft maintenance. We plan to test many components and this project will help Utah become a technology leader and innovator in this new field.”