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AFRL and Partners Reclaim Obsolete Aircraft Parts

Photo: Photo: US Air Force


Photo: US Air Force


The average age of US Air Force aircraft is over 28 years according to Assessment of Military Power, 2018. This creates a constant requirement for components needing repair or replacement. Parts can be difficult to acquire when original suppliers are no longer in existence and new suppliers have no desire to produce low volume quantities.

The challenge is to obtain parts quickly and affordably through existing supply chains, or through repair/fabrication at sustainment centres.

The Maturation of Advanced Manufacturing for Low Cost Sustainment (MAMLS) programme was created to utilise advanced technologies to address the current challenges of keeping ageing aircraft flying safely.

MAMLS is a public-private partnership led by the US Air Force Research Laboratory to accelerate advanced manufacturing and digital technologies for improved efficiency of operations.

MAMLS is executed through the America Makes National Manufacturing Institute and its members. Over 45 projects have been initiated through MAMLS to improve operations using a wide variety of technologies and teams.

A MAMLS team from the University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI) and Bill Macy Consulting partnered with Ogden Air Logistics Complex personnel at Hill Air Force Base, Utah to reassemble an F-16 tail that had been shot full of holes and then disassembled. The tail could not be reconstructed due to the lack of needed tooling and technical data.

Solomon Duning of UDRI said: “The problem was that flight-critical features of the F-16 tail could not be manufactured within the technical specifications without an accurate reference. Reassembly with traditional methodologies would have been near-impossible; however, advanced digital methods provide new approaches to critical tasks such as these.”

A variety of reverse engineering technologies (Laser scanning, FaroArm and Photogrammetry) was used to develop a digital model of the tail. This model was then used to establish optimised lug drilling and milling locations to bring the tail together for final reassembly.

By using the digital model to configure the parts required to reassemble the wing, this effort was able to reclaim an Air Force asset worth an estimated $600,000-$1 million depending on current costs.

Bill Macy from Macy Consulting indicated that, “The project was able to demonstrate how digital data can be utilised to minimise the need for complex tooling and provide new repair options. As a result, lead times, costs and quality can all be effectively managed to provide enhanced repair solutions that support fleet readiness.”

Source: US Air Force

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