July 18, 2016, Brentwood, TN – The Naval Air Warfighter Center, Aircraft Division, has contracted with VEXTEC Corporation to demonstrate the feasibility of using integrated computational material engineering (ICME) software tools to greatly decrease the time and money needed to certify an Additive Manufactured (AM) component for structural application. AM is the process of taking a digital representation of a part or component and directly manufacturing the resulting product using a three-dimensional fabrication technique. AM can provide significant cost and lead time benefits through the ability to bypass complex, costly and long lead forgings. However, as attractive as this all sounds, any new technology brings with it the burden of implementation, especially in the aerospace community when it comes to certifying the AM parts. The Navy is seeking a technology that can provide rapid accept/reject criteria to be determined at the early design and manufacturing stages.
VEXTEC and their research partner, Oak Ridge’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility, will optimize the AM processes for damage tolerant design philosophies. Aerojet Rocketdyne, a major supplier of defense products, will work with the team to assure the outcome of this STTR will be a viable commercial product. The software will significantly lower unit costs of additive manufacturing products by reducing the high barrier to entry caused by the current certification test requirements. AM will be an added feature of VEXTEC’s current suite of software tools known as Virtual Life Management® (VLM®) which is used to create a digital representation, or Virtual Twin®, of the part with all of the variations and uncertainties of the real part. Fleet owners, such as the Department of Defense, will be able to determine if a replacement part will meet their durability need. The manufacturers of the next generation of defense systems will optimize the AM process to provide material microstructure for the highest reliability at the lowest cost.
“We are excited to receive this award from the Navy and to be partnering with Oak Ridge,” said Dr. Robert Tryon (CTO, Co-Founder of VEXTEC) “We strongly believe that a computational material durability simulation software, such as our Virtual Life Management (VLM) offers the potential to complete most of the AM component validation process with limited testing, changing material science much the way finite element analysis (FEA) changed structural design.”
About VEXTEC: VEXTEC’s Virtual Life Management is a unique combination of engineering analysis, material science and condition monitoring protected by seven patents. VLM helps companies predict and enhance the reliability and performance of critical components during design, testing, manufacturing and service. Since 2000, VEXTEC’s Virtual Twin has provided predictive analytics prognostics and life extension for hundreds of different products. To learn more, visit www.vextec.com.