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Additive Manufacturing to Support 100% Parts Availability




TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Materials/Processes

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 section 5.4.c.(8) of the solicitation and within the AF Component-specific instructions. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws. Please direct questions to the AF SBIR/STTR Contracting Officer, Ms. Gail Nyikon,


OBJECTIVE: Develop and demonstrate a capability to manufacture and qualify non-flight critical aircraft parts


DESCRIPTION: Additive manufacturing and new rapid manufacturing methods may have the capability to reduce the cost and the lead time required to produce and maintain many kinds of parts for the aerospace industry. One hurdle in implementing these new manufacturing methods for replacement parts is the stringent, time consuming and costly qualification processes that must be followed because of the change in manufacturing process, especially for flight-critical parts. There are likely legacy parts within the Air Force supply chain that are excellent candidates for production by these new manufacturing methods, and that also have less stringent qualification requirements because they are non-flight critical.

Lead time sometimes restricts the supply chain for servicing Air Force aircraft. Oftentimes, parts that need to be manufactured have long-lead times for procurement or the supplier is no longer in the business of making the parts. The ability to organically produce non-critical parts has the potential to transform Air Force sustainment practices. This effort is primarily geared towards replacing non-critical parts with additive manufacturing methods. These parts include but are not limited to such items as brackets, ducting, housings, shrouds (such as the KC-135 refueling shroud), covers, and hoses. This list is not designed to be all inclusive, but provides some of the known opportunities for parts replacement. In general, metallic parts that have any fatigue requirements are too high risk to pursue for this effort, but other high value parts may be good options if the part requirements and capability of the manufacturing process are well understood.

The capability to certify the process for non-critical parts and certifying the process for a family/class of parts is needed more than point certification for parts. Successful proposals must identify potential parts and demonstrate an understanding of how to identify all part requirements (i.e., to reverse engineer the requirements) to ensure success of replacement efforts. All business cases for developing new manufacturing methods must consider qualification as an important step of replacing the part. Cost and lead time of the part families must be considered from the outset in order to build an appropriate business case for future parts.

Because this effort is geared towards parts replacement, successful proposals will be expected to demonstrate a capability to not only manufacture parts, but also the ability to develop the data and engineering analysis required for qualification of the part. Sign-off from the appropriate engineering authority will be required before new manufacturing methods can be implemented onto actual parts. Projects are more likely to be successful if OEM engineering authorities are brought into advisement. Because of the wide scope of Air Force parts, successful proposals will identify parts to pilot the new manufacturing methods on. Partnering with OEM’s or other suppliers to propose efforts with already identified potential parts will likely be more successful than relying on the Air Force to identify a prioritized list of parts to manufacture.

Proposals are limited to $900K.


PHASE I: Contractor will have developed and demonstrated cost and time effective method for reverse engineering and production of non-flight critical aircraft parts. Developed plans and techniques for qualifying families of parts.


FEASIBILITY DOCUMENTATION: Offerors interested in submitting a Direct to Phase II proposal in response to this topic must provide documentation to substantiate that the scientific and technical merit and feasibility described has been met and describes the potential commercial applications. The documentation provided must substantiate that the proposer has developed a preliminary understanding of additive manufacturing to support 100% parts availability. Documentation must include proof of cost and time effective methods for reverse engineering for production of non-flight critical aircraft parts, in addition to plans and techniques for qualifying families of parts. Documentation should include all relevant information including, but not limited to: technical reports, test data, prototype designs/models, and performance goals/results. Read and follow all of Step 1 of the Air Force 15.3 Instructions. The Air Force will not evaluate the offeror’s related DP2 proposal where it determines that the offeror has failed to demonstrate the scientific and technical merit and feasibility of the Phase I project.


PHASE II: Develop and demonstrate a process for rapidly manufacture and qualification of non-critical aerospace parts. Document steps on how parts were chosen, how key qualification issues were addressed, and lessons learned for implementing new manufacturing methods on similar parts in the future. Pilot the process on 2-3 identified Air Force parts, working with appropriate engineering authorities to work through qualification of manufacturing processes.


PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Further commercialize the capability to qualify replacement parts. Identify another round of parts or parts families to replace. Enhance the automation of the process.


KEYWORDS: Additive Manufacturing, Sustainment, Reverse engineering, ducting, non-flight critical, qualification, FDM, SLS, 3D printing

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