OC-ALC and AFLCMC open second REACT lab with GE
The Reverse Engineering and Critical Tooling lab hosts metal 3D printers procured under the Pacer Edge Program
The Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex (OC-ALC) and Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s (AFLCMC) Propulsion Directorate, along with industry partner General Electric, recently opened the Complex’s second Reverse Engineering and Critical Tooling (REACT) lab which hosts 3D metal printers procured under the Pacer Edge Program. 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 being 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 affected 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.”
“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 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.