Penn State’s Applied Research Laboratory has been supporting maintenance and sustainment activities for the DoD over the past 30 years. Recently, the Defense Logistics Agency along with U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center (CCDC AvMC) has completed an effort to determine the viability of additive manufacturing, specifically laser powder bed fusion (LPBF), for producing components used for aircraft sustainment. To ascertain the potential of additively manufactured components and the requirements to verify the performance of additively manufactured components used in aircraft, a UH-60 fuel elbow was redesigned and built at the Center for Innovative Materials Processing through Direct Digital Deposition (CIMP-3D) of the Applied Research Laboratory at Penn State (ARL-PSU).
The fuel elbow effort fell under the US Army’s AMNOW program, led by The National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining geared to curb disruptions of the current supply chain.
Initially, efforts were made to redesign the fuel elbow so that the geometry would be compatible with LPBF technology and to resolve known issues (small fuel leaks) stemming from traditional manufacturing methods. After successful development efforts, ARL PSU delivered more than 50 fuel elbows to the Army for testing and also led efforts to transfer manufacturing procedures to several small business (Innovating 3D Manufacturing, ATI and Penn United Technologies INC.) to help build the US industrial base with the purpose of obtaining additively manufactured parts.
Through the continued efforts of the project team, the UH-60 fuel elbow built out of stainless steel 316L on various LPBF systems has met all requirements set forth by CCDC AvMC and passed airworthiness assessments to be the first Army-developed critical part to be flown on a US Army aircraft.