This picture of the weapons pylon on a USAF plane shows the fairings that control the aerodynamic flow around the weapon and the pylon.
This project seeks to demonstrate advanced manufacturing technologies to the Air Force for developing sustainment solutions for legacy aircraft, by doing a deep dive into using advanced manufacturing technology to learn how to qualify these Fairing parts for flight, transitioning this to AFLCMC for implementation.
The AF faces significant challenges to replace out of production spares, replace low-volume parts, and repair legacy tooling to support aging aircraft. The fairing family of parts was identified by the AF as a challenging part to develop direct part fabrication capability to include initial process and part qualification strategies. For flight test and/or singular repairs, AM has proven invaluable for fast and relatively inexpensive substitutions versus traditional manufacturing. The problem that will be addressed is how to reduce the lead time and improve the cost savings offered by AM in a broader application space, by reducing the non-recurring expenses of point design and developing a capability for part families. Phase 2 manufacturing demonstrations target direct part production of components and develop the necessary technology, data, and repeatable processes needed for future implementation of additive manufacturing for a series of part families.
This project will transition point design production of additively manufacturing aircraft fairings into a family of parts solution. The focus will be on the hybrid additive manufacturing approach to create composite sandwich panels that could open the door for production of aircraft semi-structural fairings, without the need for tooling. In this approach, the underlying FDM structure and printed Ultem 9085 core act as the tool for layup of the composite skins, eliminating the tooling costs, minimizing the touch labor from layup and cure, and ultimately reducing the manufacturing span time and greatly reducing the overall cost of semi-structural fairings. This approach is a game changer for the aerospace industry and has the potential to greatly reduce costs for Air Force flight platforms.
The project will focus on B-52 pylon fairings as demonstration articles, collecting flight requirements and applying AM capabilities to produce flight worthy composite fairings. We will follow the design and development of the processes to produce an AM hybrid sandwich panel. The lessons learned from the B-52 pylon fairing family of parts will be transitioned to a larger part family set of composite sandwich panel aircraft fairings. The team expects this program to enhance and improve Air Force sustainment capability by providing data and lessons learned in certifying and qualifying AM technologies to a part family and not just in point design applications. The goal will be to improve the efficiency at the depot level for cost reduction and platform readiness by enabling AM technology as an understood and approved manufacturing capability. The team will transition this AM technology across Boeing platforms.
Other Project Participants
- Youngstown Business Incubator (YBI)
- U.S. Department of Defense
- National Science Foundation
- U.S. Department of Energy