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Outer Mold Line Material Condition Probe




The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with the Announcement. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws.


OBJECTIVE: This topic seeks to develop and commercialize a capability for assessing the material condition of aircraft outer mold line (OML) topcoat paint systems, in the form of a handheld, lightweight, and easy-to-use measurement probe.


DESCRIPTION: The Department of Defense is interested in exploring technology solutions to inform fleet-level decisions on repainting schedules for air vehicles, in accordance with a transition from traditional schedule-based maintenance to condition-based maintenance (CBM) for the visual appearance of air vehicles. The work to be accomplished under the SBIR funding includes the development and commercialization of a handheld, lightweight, and easy-to-use measurement probe for assessing the material condition of aircraft outer mold line (OML) topcoat paint systems. The topic seeks to develop this capability in order to provide data to inform air vehicle repainting schedule decisions. Proposed technology solutions must be rugged and easy to operate in a flightline and/or hangar environment with minimal training/re-training and qualification requirements. Ideally, self-calibration or user calibration is highly desirable and much preferred over periodic factory calibration. Solutions based primarily on colorimetric (color and gloss) measurements are particularly sought, although other modalities for assessing condition/quality of painted coatings are also acceptable. Other modalities might include but are not limited to: mechanical durability, surface roughness, surface energy, contact angle. High repeatability and low variability (gauge R&R) are key performance metrics, along with measurement acquisition speed and broad applicability across many different types of coatings, including different colors, and both matte and gloss finishes. It is anticipated that the work will generate considerable quantities of experimental data. Technical proposals should therefore equally emphasize the development of algorithms for interpreting these large experimental data sets, including but not limited to multi-dimensional datamining and/or machine learning (ML) based approaches. Technology solutions will be required to achieve Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Class 2 Division 1 electrical compliance certification in order to be used in the shadow of the aircraft. This Phase I topic is expected to deliver at least one working prototype to develop further for field trials in the follow-on Phase II effort. The successful Phase I effort will conclude with a coupon-level demonstration of the prototype technology in a lab environment.


PHASE I: The Phase I effort shall include determining, insofar as possible, the scientific and technical merit and feasibility of ideas appearing to have commercial potential, i.e. Phase I will take the form of a feasibility study. Sufficient work must be completed in the Phase I in order to validate the product-market fit between the proposed solution and a potential AF stakeholder (program office). The offeror shall define a clear, immediately actionable plan with the proposed solution and the AF customer at the beginning of the Phase I effort. The feasibility study should include; (i) identification of the prime potential AF end user(s) for the non-Defense commercial offering, and how the offered product has been modified to solve the AF need; (ii) description of perceived integration cost(s) and feasibility of integration with current mission-specific products such as existing OML topcoat systems; (iii) a description of how the product can be used by other DoD or Governmental customers. General Size Weight and Power (SWaP) requirements will be supplied by the relevant AF stakeholders along with electrical and other certifications necessary for successful technology transition to the warfighter.


PHASE II: Under the Phase II effort, the awardee(s) shall sufficiently develop the technical approach and prototype system in order to conduct a small number of relevant demonstrations at the customer organization's facilities (Ogden Air Logistics Center (OO-ALC), Hill AFB, UT and/or NAVAIR Fleet Readiness Center - East (FRC-E), Cherry Point, NC. Identification of manufacturing/production issues and or business model modifications required to further improve product or process relevance to improved sustainment costs and aircraft availability should be documented under the Phase II effort. These Phase II awards are intended to provide a path to commercialization, not the final step for the proposed solution. Expected Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at end of Phase II is TRL 7 - System prototype demonstration in an operational environment.


PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: The awardee(s) can expect to pursue commercialization of the various technologies developed in Phase II for transitioning expanded mission capability to a broad range of potential government and civilian users and alternate mission applications. Direct access with end users such as OEM's and government customers such as Program Offices will be provided. Opportunities will be made available to the small business to receive Phase III awards for providing the government direct procurement of products and services developed in coordination with the program. Phase III activities will include obtaining various approvals from OEM and program office, including program support equipment endorsements, electrical safety certifications, etc. Expected TRL at Phase III entry is TRL 7 - System prototype demonstration in an operational environment.



  1. Arthur D. Broadbent, Colorimetry, Methods, Editor(s): John C. Lindon, George E. Tranter, David W. Koppenaal, Encyclopedia of Spectroscopy and Spectrometry (Third Edition), Academic Press, 2017, Pages 321-327, ISBN 9780128032244,;


KEYWORDS: Outer Mold Line; OML; Topcoat; Colorimetry; Degradation

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