Author: Martin Williams
Company: USAF/AFMC/AFSC/OC-ALC/76 CXMG/REACT
Phone: (405) 582-4015
Sustainment of aging aircraft presents unique challenges due to lack of technical data, aging legacy tooling, and the need to rapidly respond to parts availability issues for a variety of aircraft and exchangeable end items. To meet the needs of the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex depot customers, engineering must be responsive and leverage technology to expedite the return of aircraft and their components to service as quickly as possible. The 76th Commodities Maintenance Group (CMXG) has leveraged 3D laser scanning and metal additive manufacturing to create solutions for depot maintenance problems where traditional manufacturing is not possible or too slow. CMXG has had great success augmenting contract and organic manufacturing by enhancing and producing end-use tooling, including crimp dies, gauge blocks, spline keys and testing fixtures created by Direct Metal Laser (DMLS).
When B-1 production was unable to replace their damaged wire harnesses for the critical fuel center of gravity management system CMXG used metrology measurement equipment to reverse engineer the crimp dies and gauge blocks required for wire harness fabrication. Due to the crimp dies needing high strength and the gauge blocks needing to meet tight dimensional tolerances the parts were fabricated using DMLS. This provided Tinker with the capability to fabricate these wire harnesses overnight. DMLS 3-D additive manufacturing greatly reduced cost for machining and greatly reduced turn-around time from 4-6 months to one week.
When B-1 Production was conducting testing on a valve body assembly, they test the internal shafts by shoving a screwdriver in the spline and manually turning it to see if it moved the butterfly valve. This greatly increased risk of damaging a good part simply because they did not have the right tool. CMXG designed and metal AM two configurations of a spline key that either could use a drill or could turn the valve by hand. The parts were added to an existing print and cost less than $3 each in material.
CMXG is also developing load limit tester for B-1 torque tubes. These tubes are being refurbished in production and are supposed to be loaded to 7000 in lbs of torque to ensure they were repaired correctly, however production has no way to hold or torque the tubes. CMXG is designing a fixture to hold both sides of the tube and safely torque the part. The design has been printed using a cheaper AM method to test fit the parts before moving forward with the metal print. The design provides a cheap quick solution and leverages metal AM as the part would be impossible to make with any other fabrication method.
The cost avoidance from metal AM for tooling has expected savings of $125k and 750 flow days annually. CMXG is leveraging modern technology to deliver cost effective engineering solutions to the war fighter.