The fifth annual Defense Manufacturing Technology Achievement Award was presented to the Laser Additive Manufacturing and Laser Shock Peening (LSP) initiatives on Dec. 2 at the Defense Manufacturing Conference, Washington, D.C.
The award recognizes Defense and private sector individuals responsible for developing innovative manufacturing processes that improve the affordability, cycle time, readiness and availability of weapon systems and components for warfighter needs. Sue Payton, deputy under secretary of defense, advanced systems and concepts, presented the award.
The Laser Additive Manufacturing (LAM) team, consisting of representatives from Army, Navy, Air Force, Defense Logistics Agency, Pratt and Whitney, AeroMet Corp., Lockheed Martin, The Boeing Co., Northrop Grumman and MTS Systems Corp., was recognized for developing and implementing an innovative manufacturing process that has given birth to a new industry.
The process is based on stereolithography, utilizing software to convert a computer-assisted data file to a sliced format, with parts built one layer at a time, enabling manufacturing-on-demand. LAM was applied to aluminum F-15 Strike Eagle pylon ribs that were failing prematurely. Action in the Iraq war depleted the remaining inventory. Ship sets made from titanium replaced the failed aluminum components in only two months, meeting the surge demand for aircraft mission availability, improving safety and extending the pylon part life by a factor of five.
The Laser Shock Peening (LSP) team, comprised of representatives from Air Force, Army, Pratt & Whitney, General Electric Aircraft Engine, LSP Technologies and AT&T Government Solutions, developed the laser shock peening to increase the durability of titanium turbine engine fan blades and decrease their sensitivity to foreign object damage.
LSP uses a high-energy laser pulse to impart an intense shock wave into the surface of metal parts, generating compressive stresses which greatly improve fatigue properties and toughness. Implementation on turbine engine airfoils has reduced maintenance costs, improved reliability and safety, resulting in increased operational availability of combat aircraft.
Application to engine blades for the B-1B Lancer, F-16 Falcon and F/A-22 Raptor has avoided over $59 million in costs. The technology is being evaluated for transmission gears, turbine engine blades in tanks and other Army ground vehicles and aircraft landing gear components.