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In-Place Heat Treat for Incrementally Formed Parts




OBJECTIVE: Research, evaluate, and ultimately deploy the ability to heat treat incrementally formed sheet metal parts directly on the forming equipment without removing the part.


DESCRIPTION: Metal is typically formed in a soft state. After forming, the part is typically heat treated to make it harder and applicable for use on an aircraft. The process of heat treating tends to warp the part, requiring the part to be placed back in/on the forming machine (called re-striking).


Robotic incremental metal forming provides a perfect use case to heat treat the metal in place directly after the forming process. This eliminates requiring the part to travel to another shop and another piece of equipment and greatly simplifies the re-striking process.  Additionally, sourcing certain sheet metal stock with the appropriate starting heat-treated state can be challenging, increasing the associated lead times to form parts and have them installed on aircrafts. 


In-place heat treat capability, given that it allows for the heat treat state of the sheet stock to also be manipulated prior to forming, can mitigate this issue.  Comprehensively considered, an in-place heat treat capability would make operations more efficient, effective, and safe.  These attributes would be realized through a much-lessened logistical footprint, on-time attention per part, and utility input per part.  The additional process would also greatly enhance net capacity to produce in surge production and other potential scenarios.


PHASE I: As this is a Direct-to-Phase-II (D2P2) topic, no Phase I awards will be made as a result of this topic. To qualify for this D2P2 topic, the Government expects the Offeror to demonstrate feasibility by means of a prior “Phase I-type” effort that does not constitute work undertaken as part of a prior SBIR/STTR funding agreement. For this topic, evaluators are expecting that the submittal firm demonstrate the ability to detect warpage and re-strike the part as required.


PHASE II: Characterize the temperature-time profile of the metal as a function of heat treat parameters and test the mechanical behavior of the treated parts. Evaluate and ultimately pick a heating technology that meets the needed requirements. Develop working prototype to heat treat the part on the existing robotic incremental forming equipment at WR-ALC.


PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Refine hardware and software to increase accuracy and reliability.  Achieve production-ready state for marketing to the Air Force, other related federal agencies, and private industry.



  1. Kalveram, Sandra – “Induction heat treatment of sheet-bulk metal formed parts”, Feb 26, 2016,
  2. Merklein, M, Johannes, M. Lechner, M. Kupper, A. – “A review on tailored blanks—Production, applications and evaluation.” J. Mater. Process. Technol. 2014, 214, 151–164.;
  3. R Waggott, DJ Walker, RC Gibson, RH Johnson – “Transverse flux induction heating of aluminum alloy strip” Metals Technology 9.1 (1982): 493-498.;


KEYWORDS: Incremental Metal Forming, Industrial Robots, Heat Treating

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