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Auburn University receives $50 million from US Army to advance AM

The three-year project is designed to help the US Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation and Missile Center boost its increasing modernization efforts

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Auburn University has been awarded $50 million for a new three-year project designed to help the US Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation and Missile Center boost its increasing modernization efforts. The funding is the single largest prime research contract ever awarded to the university.

Titled “Lightweight, Advanced Manufacturing of Metallic, Polymer and Composite Structures for Aviation and Missile Weapon Systems,” the project will be facilitated through the Auburn University Applied Research Institute (AUARI) in Huntsville and will rely extensively on research expertise from Auburn’s National Center for Additive Manufacturing Excellence (NCAME), and the Interdisciplinary Center for Advanced Manufacturing Systems (ICAMS).

“Our main objective is to enable the Army to incorporate advanced manufacturing materials and methods into existing and future aviation and missile systems,” said Robert Dowling, director of research development at AUARI. “To do that, we’ll develop prototype advanced manufacturing processes required to analyze, design, develop, test, integrate, and sustain qualified components for existing and future aviation and missile systems. The advanced manufacturing materials we’re considering include alloys, polymers, and composites. The methods will include everything from machine learning to material properties characterization.”

$9.3 million of the award has already been designated for NCAME, which will use the funds to continue its industry-leading research into the materials, parts, and process qualification necessary for furthering the implementation of additive manufacturing in Army operations.

“While existing and future aviation and missile systems will be the direct beneficiaries of the project, successful results may be transferable to other government advanced manufacturing projects,” said Dowling. “A lot of effort has gone into developing this opportunity. We’re excited to get to work.”

“It goes without saying, but this is a significant accomplishment for Auburn’s research enterprise and our Applied Research Institute,” said Steve Taylor, Auburn University’s senior vice president for research and economic development. “But it also speaks volumes about how our Army partners in Huntsville, and beyond, are placing significant value on Auburn’s work in advanced manufacturing, which is a key research focus area for our Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. To say it’s paying off is an understatement.”

Dowling also calls the project tailor-made for fulfilling one of the AUARI administration’s stated goals – creating a pipeline for real-time engagement between stakeholders in Huntsville’s defense sector and Auburn University’s main campus.

“With this award, we’ve demonstrated the significant opportunities that can be created for faculty and students when we combine our core research expertise with customer proximity and knowledge,” said Dowling. “AUARI’s proximity to Redstone Arsenal and familiarity with Army customers and missions enabled the AUARI team to develop a highly responsive proposal representing a broad spectrum of Auburn’s research capabilities both on-campus and in Huntsville.”

“President Roberts’ vision for Auburn is built around dreaming bigger, being bolder, and pushing our research endeavors to the next level,” said Taylor. “This historic award does exactly that.”

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Edward Wakefield

Edward is a freelance writer and additive manufacturing enthusiast looking to make AM more accessible and understandable.

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