DLP using 3D Systems’ Figure 4™ platform for rapid part replacement of low criticality part families such as knobs, electrical connectors, wire grommets, and spacers.
This project seeks to evaluate application of DLP technology to supply low criticality components that fulfill Air Force sustainment part requirements.
One of the biggest challenges for the sustainment community is the need for parts that are not readily available due to unforeseen replacement demand, lack of suppliers, cost, and lead times of required tooling. The return on investment (ROI) to replace simple low-criticality plastic parts like knobs, connectors, and spacers typically does not warrant the investment in traditional manufacturing methods. Efforts to relieve some of this pressure via fused deposition modeling (FDM) technology have been initiated on a Phase I Maturation of Advanced Manufacturing for Low-Cost Sustainment (MAMLS) program and at the Air Logistic Centers (ALCs), but the lack of speed, resolution, density, and process controls have limited the parts that are able to be addressed by FDM alone, resulting in lower productivity at the ALCs.
The objective of this project is to evaluate and advance the ability of emerging DLP technology to supply low criticality components that fulfill sustainment part functions for rapid, custom, and robust parts to reduce stock level requirements and product lead times. The technology is expected to supplement existing AM technologies at the ALCs where higher resolution, smoother surfaces, elastomers, or increased volumes are needed. The goal is to quickly scan and print these parts in real-time (hours not days) for just-in-time inventory control of small polymer parts critical to ALC efficiency.
3D Systems recently introduced their Figure 4™ platform, a modular, scalable, fully-integrated direct 3D production platform which incorporates high speed digital molding. To address the need for low criticality part replacement, the project team plans to demonstrate the utility and benefits of Figure 4™ (DLP) technology; identify and overcome technological and material science challenges associated with DLP through part family-specific testing, characterization, and post processing; demonstrate rapid part replacement for low-criticality parts of immediate need to ALCs; and establish a clear technology development, vetting, and transition pathway for emerging AM technologies like the Figure 4™ model.
Other Project Participants
- 3D Systems Corporation
- Northrop Grumman
- Orbital ATK
- Lockheed Martin
- U.S. Department of Defense
- National Science Foundation
- U.S. Department of Energy