Open Additive uses metal 3D printing to support US Air Force’s Landing Gear Test Facility

August 11, 2020 | Categories: Member News

Sub-scale runway surface replica printed on prototype PANDA™ platform during Phase I.

Picture: Sub-scale runway surface replica printed on prototype PANDA™ platform during Phase I.


Open Additive, LLC, has been awarded a Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Phase II development effort to support the Air Force’s Landing Gear Test Facility (LGTF) at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.

Managed by the 704th Test Group, the LGTF uses advanced test methods to evaluate aircraft tire wear resulting from tire-runway interaction. At the heart of the LGTF is the 168-inch (4.3-meter) internal drum dynamometer – a one-of-a-kind test machine developed and commissioned in 1998 to test tire performance using a rotating surface. The system is a national resource, leveraged across the Department of Defense and industrial partners to test and evaluate aircraft tire wear.

To accurately replicate real-world conditions, the LGTF launched its “3D Runway Surface Scanning and Surface Recreation Project” which uses 3D scanning of actual runways to develop digital models. A key challenge is the ability to precisely fabricate runway test tiles which both match the 3D scans and can stand up to repeated testing. Metal 3D printing provides promise for such capability. In the Phase I effort, Open Additive’s team demonstrated the ability of its laser powder bed fusion (LPBF) systems to accurately reproduce durable runway surface features.

Under the recently awarded $750k/2-year Phase II contract (FA9101-20-C-0026), Advanced Runway Texture Imitations for Specialized Tiles Fabrication via Selective Laser Melting, Open Additive will advance and leverage its large-format LPBF capabilities for this application. To be suitable for end use in the dynamometer, the full-scale 3D-printed tiles must be 20-in long (51 cm) and 5-in wide (13 cm), have precise surface features matching 3D scans, be printed or machined to specified curvature, and be made from a lightweight alloy to minimize weight.

The project dovetails other company efforts to advance and apply large-format LPBF to defense and industry needs. The company’s 24” x 24” x 12” (600 x 600 x 300 mm) LPBF testbed will serve as the primary platform for production of sub-scale and full-scale parts. By the end of this effort, it is expected that the manufacturing process will be proven viable to support LGTF needs.


More information on the Air Force Test Center’s LGTF:

Courtesy of Open Additive