Weber State University Leverages 3D Printing for Aerospace Support and Research

Weber State University is using 3D printing to advance its research into composite materials that support northern Utah’s aerospace and defense ecosystem. (Scott G. Winterton, Desert News)

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OGDEN — A solution for military aircraft and other equipment requiring replacement parts that are no longer in production may come from an unlikely source: 3D printing.

Weber State University is using 3D printing to advance its research into composite materials that support northern Utah’s aerospace and defense ecosystem. That’s all because of an upgrade at the university’s Miller Center for Advanced Research and Solutions with the installation of the Impossible Objects Composite-Based Additive Manufacturing system, or CBAM-2.

CBAM-2 allows MARS Center to print composite materials, which can then be used to design parts for a range of high-tech applications.

“We’re right next to Hill Air Force Base; Northrop Grumman is right there. We have all these aerospace companies in Utah,” said Devin Young, a WSU research specialist who works at the MARS center. “What we want to be able to do is customize our mission. We’re looking at these programs, working specifically with these aerospace companies, to help train students with the skills they’ll need in the future.”

In Northrop Grumman’s case, it looked like recycling leftover composites.

“The military is very interested in composites, and the ability to 3D print these parts on-demand using CBAM gives us the advantage to work on more projects and recruit the best minds,” said David Ferro, dean of the Webb School of Engineering, Applied Science and Technology.

Ferro added that the university has a long history with CBAM technology, but the new system – with better technology and more capabilities than the center’s previous CBAM 3D printers – will be an important tool for aerospace research in industry and academia. valuable tool.

“We’ve used this technology to print parts for legacy aircraft, aging jets that need replacement parts, or tooling that’s no longer in production,” Young said. “CBAM makes parts that are lighter, stronger, and faster than some other methods that exist. quick.”

Young added that the printer is primarily focused on making non-critical, non-structural parts of the aircraft.

“They probably don’t want us to make a mission-critical part that if it fails, your whole plane goes down,” Yang said.

Recent examples of 3D printed parts for the CBAM-2 include restraint straps that secure first aid kits inside aircraft currently flown by the U.S. Air Force.

“They built them for these planes in the early ’80s and ’70s,” Young said.

Eventually, USAF first aid kits got so big that the former plastic straps started cracking and breaking.

Enter MARS Center and CBAM-2.

It’s new territory, so it’s really exciting for me.

–Devin Young, Weber State Mars Center

“We showed that we can do this with CBAM, we can do a stronger part, and then you can do a smaller, limited run,” Young said. “Those were their key needs. You have this part , you don’t have any substitutes anymore, and the question is, ‘How do you do that?’ because your old way of making it is 40 years out of date.”

That’s the beauty of CBAM-2, Young said.

He also added that CBAM-2 is very good at making flat parts. While he admits that it might sound weird, there is a need to do so, as the example of restraint straps demonstrates.

According to Impossible Objects CEO Steve Hoover, CBAM Systems’ carbon fiber PEEK 3D printing material has excellent mechanical properties and is a cutting-edge alternative to aluminum for prototypes, tools, spare parts and repairs.

“The Mars Center is at the forefront of aerospace and defense research,” Hoover said. “We are proud that they selected CBAM technology and are already involved in several projects that have exciting potential for the Department of Defense, Department of Energy and other industrial partners.”

The technology is still very new, and there is room for exploration to discover where it might be most applicable, Young said.

“I don’t think there’s one manufacturing technology that’s (a) one-size-fits-all solution. I think: It’s better to be a quiver than a panacea. That’s what makes it interesting. We’re trying to figure out what applications Best for CBAM and other techniques,” Young added.

“It’s new territory, so it’s really exciting for me.”

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Logan Stefanich is a reporter for covering community, education, business and military news in southern Utah.

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