Legacy military systems are represented by aircraft and engines that were largely designed in the 1950’s and 1960’s, many of which have been out of production since the 1970’s and 1980’s. Supporting these systems with key components such as gearboxes and housings is a constant challenge. Lead times of two years or more are not uncommon for the investment castings required to produce these critical components. The problem is compounded by the very small quantities and irregular ordering patterns for these products, which further drive cost and lead time, resulting in no-quotes from foundries.
To address this concern, the U.S. Air Force is sponsoring programs for the design and generation of 3D-printed ceramic tooling, which has demonstrated order-of-magnitude reductions in cycle times for investment castings. In addition, 3D-printing can virtually eliminate non-recurring expense for the ceramic tooling required to produce investment castings. Through an Air Force program known as Rapid Engineered Castings: Housings for Aircraft & Reliable Gearboxes for Engines (RECHARGE) the PERFECT-3D Division of Renaissance Services applies 3D-printing technology to design and produce ceramic tooling for investment castings. Primary products are molds for legacy structural investment castings.
- Describe how the U.S. Air Force is leveraging ceramic additive manufacturing to help sustain older military systems that are no longer in production.
- Describe the process for applying ceramic additive manufacturing for production of a variety of parts for representative aerospace & defense investment castings.
- Understand how ceramic additive manufacturing can provide almost 95% reduction in the lead time for casting process aids and tooling compared to conventional processes.