University of Alabama in Huntsville
Three major US institutions, the US army, NASA and the University of Alabama in Huntsville, have joined forces, forming a powerful and well-equipped organisation dedicated to furthering the most advanced 3D printing technologies.
The US Army Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC), NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) and the University of Alabama in Huntsville are leading a collaborative effort to share knowledge on additive manufacturing technology and to promote its applications.
In May 2014, leaders from AMRDEC and MSFC made this commitment to the progress of 3D printing official, establishing an Additive Manufacturing Integrated Product Team (IPT). The IPT's mission is to engage in research and development efforts that drive the progress of state-of-the-art additive manufacturing systems.
AMRDEC is currently investigating trade studies concerning additive manufacturing to minimise cost and optimise performance in missile structures using topology optimisation routines in order to enhance the design and analysis of additive manufactured structures. In addition, the team is looking at characterising materials and processes for specific missile applications.
AMRDEC Director James Lackey said: "When you come to learn and appreciate the potential of additive manufacturing, it's hard not to judge this as a true game-changer; one that will ultimately have far reaching, historical impacts onto our society at-large.
"Teaming with NASA MSFC and other partners, AMRDEC will investigate procurements of additive manufacturing machines to support our research needs, build a cadre of engineers and scientists savvy on this technology, fabricate and performance test qualify components for ground and flight test."
Associate Director, Technical, of the Marshall Center Dr Dale Thomas signed the IPT charter for NASA and described 3D printing technology as a "step toward the future", while the agreement was facilitated by Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering and Engineering Management at the University of Alabama Phil Farrington.
"This effort continues a long tradition of collaboration between the AMRDEC and Marshall," said Farrington. "This exciting new technology has the potential to radically change the way we manufacture aerospace and defence systems. One of the team's goals is to identify additive manufacturing research and development needs of greatest importance to the defence and space community."
"[3D printing] is changing the way organisations design and manufacture products around the world - and space is one of the key places where humanity will see the impact of this technology," Thomas added.