Proposals due by 5:00 p.m. EDT on Monday, June 8, 2020.

DIRECTED PROJECT OPPORTUNITY

AXIOM
Additive for eXtreme Improvement in Optical Mounts

The Additive for eXtreme Improvement in Optical Mounts (AXIOM) Project Call seeks innovative solutions to enhance readiness of high-precision optical components used in sensors, space systems, and other applications by developing and demonstrating novel designs enabled by additive manufacturing (AM).

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, Manufacturing and Industrial Base Technology Division, is funding the AXIOM Project Call. AFRL and the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (NCDMM), which manages America Makes, are targeting to make available approximately $560K to fund one award with at least $280K in matching cost-share funds from the awarded project team for total funding worth $840K.

Currently, optical components require a challenging combination of weight, stiffness, coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE), thermal management, and dimensional tolerances. To meet these requirements, designs often include geometric features, manufacturing methods, and materials that can increase cost and lead time and create supply chain vulnerabilities due to the limited set of approved material sources. The project call seeks to mitigate these risks through innovative approaches, which leverage AM in conjunction with novel designs or materials to demonstrate equivalence and reliability when compared to a commercial off-the-shelf product.

All the technical requirements of the AXIOM Project Call are detailed fully in the Request for Proposal (RFP) document.

Project Call Proposal Process

Given the specific focus of the AXIOM Project Call, proposers will proceed directly to developing and submitting a full proposal. Proposal teams will have approximately four weeks to submit their full proposals to America Makes.

Proposals are due no later than 5:00 p.m. EDT on Monday, June 8, 2020. 

The AXIOM Project Call award notification will occur by Friday, June 19, 2020 with an anticipated project start date of August 2020.

Eligibility

Domestic and foreign members who are in good standing with America Makes are eligible to participate. Only the lead proposer must be a member of America Makes. Participants of the lead proposer’s team may be made up of America Makes members and non-members.

If the lead proposing organization is not currently an America Makes member, the organization must become one by Friday, June 5, 2020. Information on how to join America Makes is available on the membership page. (Note: The foreign membership approval process requires a minimum of three weeks to complete.)

Dates/Deadlines:

Project Call Announcement and Posting 05/05/2020
Project Call Kick-off Webinar 05/12/2020
Questions from Proposers about Scope or Approach Due 05/20/2020
Responses to Proposers about Scope or Approach Due
(All questions and responses will be shared with all proposers on this page.)
05/22/2020
Lead Proposer must be America Makes member 06/05/2020
Fully Executed NDA with NCDMM
(Only if proposal contains proprietary information.)
06/05/2020
Full Project Proposal Submission Due Date 06/08/2020
Anticipated Decision and Selection of Projects 06/18/2020
Anticipated Date to have ALL Projects on Contract 08/01/2020

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Is this focused on the mounts themselves or on the optics (lenses, mirrors, etc.)?
2. What costs can be considered as cost share? How will these be tracked? What cost items can be considered as cost share?
3. Can a team submit more than one proposal?
4. How do teams ask questions regarding scope and approach?
5. Can a project team member be a non-U.S company?
6. When submitting detailed proposals, will the approaches remain confidential, so as to not jeopardize future patent applications?
7. Who owns IP that is produced as a result of this work (including matching funds from a commercial company)? If IP is owned by America Makes, is there a requirement that IP be licensed to members, and if so, what are the terms?
8. Is there requirement of levels of membership?
9. For teaming purposes, is America Makes helping connect interested parties through any page on America Makes site or any email list ?
10. Does the performance for the material-design approach need to be substantiated on the system level or on the material property level – CTE, modulus, denisty, thermal conductivity, etc.? Or both levels – system and material?
11. Is this program geared towards a specific material type – metal, polymer, ceramic, composite?
12. What is the rough size scale for these components- mm or m? What are the minimum and maximum part dimensions? What is the expected quantity to produce?
13. Can you define an ‘accessible exotic material?
14. Can proprietary/ITAR information be included in the proposal? Is this proposal considered under an NDA?
15. There have been mentions of ‘off the shelf’ systems. Would you be able to share some examples of these for us to make a comparison?
16. Would the project call sponsor please provide examples of optical COTS components that are relevant to known applications of interest?
17. Will a data package (i.e. CAD, load cases, etc) describing the state-of-the-art in existing optical mount designs be released?
18. Can program results/reports be scrubbed of proprietary info before sharing with entire membership?
19. Are there any other ideal material properties besides low CTE? (flame retardant, ESD, etc.)
20. Is there a design in mind? If so, can it be redesigned for additive?
21. What type of forces will this part see?
22. What do you define as an optical mount (fixed, kinematic, or gimbal) and what specific problem are you looking to improve? Does this proposal focus on a specific type of mount?
1. Is this focused on the mounts themselves or on the optics (lenses, mirrors, etc.)?

The primary focus of the project call is intended to address improvement in optical mounts.  Lenses and mirrors (and others) are critical pieces of optical components and can be considered in-scope.  Offerer should closely consider how their proposed solution will address performance requirements of the baseline optical component being targeted.  Representative performance requirements are listed in the RFP, though these are likely not the only factors relevant to technical and business case feasibility.  In all proposals, offerers should consider the risk of their technical approach and demonstrate realistic analysis of the business case with demonstrations at relevant TRL/MRLs 3-7.

2. What costs can be considered as cost share? How will these be tracked? What cost items can be considered as cost share?

Costs that can be considered as cost share: material, labor hours, overhead, equipment, building, land purchase, tuition, and software. This will be tracked through cost share forms submitted monthly to America Makes from the lead member of the project team, sub contractors will submit to the lead. What can not be considered for cost share: pProposal costs, entertainment, alcohol, or gifts.

3. Can a team submit more than one proposal?

Yes, teams may submit more than one project proposal.

4. How do teams ask questions regarding scope and approach?

Questions should be emailed to projectcall@americamakes.us.  Questions will be posted to the America Makes website according to the RFP schedule.  Questions asked after the scheduled Q&A deadline will not be addressed.

5. Can a project team member be a non-U.S company?

Yes, however all foreign-owned companies must apply and be approved for foreign membership prior to proposal submission and federal dollars can not be spent outside of the United States.  It is the Lead team’s responsibility to ensure compliance with all applicable export control laws and regulations.

6. When submitting detailed proposals, will the approaches remain confidential, so as to not jeopardize future patent applications?

YES, the proposals will only be reviewed by the evaluation team and each team member signs a confidentiality agreement.

8. Is there requirement of levels of membership?

No, there is not a requirement for member level.  It is only required that you are a member of America Makes by 6/5/2020.

9. For teaming purposes, is America Makes helping connect interested parties through any page on America Makes site or any email list ?

No, Proposers are responsible for building their own project teams.  This should be done through attending America Makes events like TRX and MMX and networking.  Another great way to build teams is to get involved with working groups.

10. Does the performance for the material-design approach need to be substantiated on the system level or on the material property level – CTE, modulus, denisty, thermal conductivity, etc.? Or both levels – system and material?

The project call states, “Offerors are encouraged to propose approaches to designing and manufacturing optical components…”  It is anticipated that this may include demonstration of material performance and system level performance.  Validation of improvements against a commercial off the shelf design/material (baseline) is critical and may limit the extent of testing possible within the allotted period of performance and funding.  We encourage innovative approaches to addressing this challenging application.  Offers should address the relevance, risks, and merits of their approach.

12. What is the rough size scale for these components- mm or m? What are the minimum and maximum part dimensions? What is the expected quantity to produce?

This should be answered by the proposal team in their response.  The project call does not specify an AM process.  Validation of improvements against a commercial off the shelf design/material (baseline) is critical, so a clear understanding of the application and relevant requirements is very important. Submissions should explain the merits of the AM process and how performance, cost, and lead time benefits will be successfully demonstrated and associated risks appropriately managed.  Project teams should also be sure that what is proposed is practical within the available period of performance and available funds.

13. Can you define an ‘accessible exotic material?

A material which does not introduce acquisition lead time or limited source risks (or is accessible) but may not be commonly used in AM processes (or otherwise is exotic to AM processing).

14. Can proprietary/ITAR information be included in the proposal? Is this proposal considered under an NDA?

Proposals will not be shared outside of AFRL/ America Makes.  If proposals include proprietary information and an NDA is required a copy of NCDMMs standard NDA agreement is available in the resources section of the AXIOM project call page under NCDMM NDA Agreement.  The NDA can be signed and sent to the contractual Point of contact in the project call for completion.

15. There have been mentions of ‘off the shelf’ systems. Would you be able to share some examples of these for us to make a comparison?

Optical components in weapons and surveillance systems are specifically mentioned in the project call.  We are unable to provide application specific details but would encourage individuals to address this risk through literature searches or collaboration with a relatively more familiar organization.

16. Would the project call sponsor please provide examples of optical COTS components that are relevant to known applications of interest?

It is incumbent upon teams to conduct this research for themselves and put forward that example and analysis.  We do not wish to limit potential responses with specific examples.

17. Will a data package (i.e. CAD, load cases, etc) describing the state-of-the-art in existing optical mount designs be released?

No, as part of the proposal writing process teams will have to research this or address this through strategic collaboration in drafting a relevant and credible response.

18. Can program results/reports be scrubbed of proprietary info before sharing with entire membership?

Yes, proprietary information can be removed from results/ reports after sharing with AFRL and before uploading to the digital storefront.  However, the intent of the funding is to benefit the membership so submitters should consider that as part of their responses.

19. Are there any other ideal material properties besides low CTE? (flame retardant, ESD, etc.)

Some of the most relevant performance criteria are outlined in the project call.  Please use those as guidance to formulating your proposed relevant validation testing.  It is critical that teams clearly define the application and outline a means to substantiating improvement versus a commercial off the shelf solution.  It is envisioned that factors such as weight, CTE, stiffness, cost, and lead time are most important to the project call stakeholders.  The testing proposed by each team should clearly outline how the necessary performance requirements will be addressed for a given optical mount application.

21. What type of forces will this part see?

That will depend upon the application chosen by the project team.  We encourage teams to establish a relevant test matrix and identify the appropriate number of corresponding test specimens (and/ or articles) to validate their approach relative to a commercial of the shelf solution.

22. What do you define as an optical mount (fixed, kinematic, or gimbal) and what specific problem are you looking to improve? Does this proposal focus on a specific type of mount?

The type of mount should be defined by the proposal team it is important that the necessary testing material and testing coupon component be clearly explained and relevant to successfully validating an AM solution defined.  While optically transparent and mirror optical mounts are under consideration, we are most interested in mirror optical mounts.

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