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USAF and GE reach next milestone in Pacer Edge programme

Posted on 05 Dec 2021 and read 719 times
USAF and GE reach next milestone in Pacer Edge programmeBuilding on the earlier success and momentum of the Pacer Edge programme, the US Air Force (USAF) and GE have entered Phase III of its ‘metal additive manufacturing pathfinder’. This phase tackles the USAF’s ‘sustainment behemoth’ of ‘cold starts’ head-on. Aircraft engine components that are considered ‘cold starts’ are parts that take over 300 days to procure. It is estimated that the USAF has over 800 engine ‘cold starts’ each year.

Alexa Polites, GE Additive’s USAF Pacer Edge programme manager, said: “The first priority for the USAF and GE team has been to create digital 3-D technical data packages (TDPs) for hard to procure, obsolete ‘cold start’ parts and deliver four airworthy near-net castings. These TDPs will eventually mean that part obsolescence will be a thing of the past.”

Over the coming years, the joint USAF and GE team plans to create at least five TDPs, increasing in technical complexity, across the USAF’s sustainment platforms.

Zack Millerwho heads the Advanced Manufacturing Program Office within the Air Force Rapid Sustainment Office, said: “The teaming of GE and the USAF legitimises the use of additive manufacturing to address critical needs of the aging aircraft that are currently unsupported within the existing supply chain.

“Pacer Edge is accelerating the USAF’s widespread adoption of 3-D metal printing to organically solve supply chain shortages and realising its promise to improve military support by drastically reducing lead times and creating additional sourcing options.”

Phase III has already successfully printed two components — a bellcrank and a cross shaft arm — in cobalt-chrome on a Concept Laser M2 Series 5, located at GE Additive’s facility in Cincinnati, Ohio. Work has also progressed on additional components using Alloy 718.

The cornerstone of the USAF/GE Pacer Edge programme is the development of ‘organic capabilities’ at Tinker Air Force Base. One way to achieve that is by ensuring that intellectual property generated within the Pacer Edge programme is owned by the US government, thereby enabling the USAF and Department of Defense to print these parts themselves in the future. The programme remains on schedule with the goal to have airworthy production castings delivered to the USAF in Spring 2022.