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AFMC Command News

OC-ALC Unveils DOD-first in Additive Manufacturing

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt Leyinzca Bihlajama
  • 72nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

The Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex and Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Propulsion Directorate, along with industry partner General Electric, recently held a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Complex’s second Reverse Engineering and Critical Tooling lab which hosts 3D metal printers procured under the Pacer Edge Program. Also, in attendance were key stakeholders of the Pacer Edge team from the Defense Logistic Agency’s Strategic Contracts Organization, the Air Force’s Rapid Sustainment Office, and the Air Force Research Lab.

The Pacer Edge Program is a partnership between government and industry designed to provide cutting-edge technology that increases production speed and reduces the cost of sustainment by leveraging additive manufacturing to produce critical aircraft and engine components that are safe, suitable and reliable. The program’s goal is to increase Air Force weapon system readiness by combating diminishing sources of manufacturing, supply and repair.

As part of the Pacer Edge Program, two alloy metal 3D printers were unveiled. The printers showcase the Air Force’s growing ability to additively manufacture metal aircraft and engine components. Safety of Flight related parts will need to be certified by the Air Force’s Airworthiness Certification Authority before put into use.

“The printer will be used for the production of propulsion items such as tooling and engine parts,” said Jason McCurry, Reverse Engineering, and Critical Tooling flight chief. “The biggest impact is the ability to produce parts that are no longer manufactured.

Beyond supporting aged systems plagued by diminishing manufacturing sources, the Pacer Edge Program can reduce production time by 80 percent.

“The propulsion directorate embraced additive manufacturing because of one big strategic reason and that is to improve propulsion readiness for the warfighter,” said John Sneden, director of Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Propulsion Directorate. “Additive manufacturing puts us in the driver’s seat so we can source those low volume hard to get parts at the speed of need.”

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OC-ALC planning larger role for 3-D printing

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Industry partnerships facilitate an exchange of knowledge and technology to support the warfighter.

“Through this partnership we bought the rights to the tech data and now we have the machines here and GE is training us to use them,” said Maj. Gen. Jeff King, OC-ALC commander. “They are guiding us through this process that will help speed the airworthiness certification process which produces high quality parts faster and still preserves that high level of safety that we require for our warfighters.”

The program has successfully developed two engine-related airworthy metal 3D printed parts flying that are flying today, one for the B-52 Stratofortress and another for the F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft. OC-ALC and AFLCMC/LP have more than a dozen more parts currently in development.

REACT II marks the introduction of a revolutionary technology in the sustainment of aircraft, expanding network availability to minimize depot maintenance costs, produce rapid prototyping and design iteration, as well as performing dimensional verification and low volume production of tooling.