News | Nov. 12, 2021

RSO, Propulsion partnership yields results

By Daryl Mayer AFLCMC Public Affairs

A partnership between AFLCMC’s Propulsion Directorate and the Rapid Sustainment Office is realizing the promise of additive manufacturing by producing real engine parts for real jets. 
One of the charges for the RSO is to increase mission readiness by finding new technologies and scaling them across the Air Force enterprise.  As the organization responsible for the life cycle support of jet engines, the Propulsion Directorate is in the perfect position to effect wide-scale change.    
“Advanced manufacturing identifies new and emerging technologies to improve readiness and drive down sustainment costs, especially for those parts that have obsolescence issues and are really hard to identify sources,” said Zack Miller, Advanced Manufacturing Program Office Chief.  “Advanced manufacturing includes 3D printing, directed energy deposition and laser clad welding for repair services.”

Within the RSO, the Advanced Manufacturing Program Office was established in November of 2020 to counteract obsolescence issues, improve mission readiness and also drive down sustainment costs
“Many of our parts take 18 to 24 months to deliver and that's obviously not good enough,” said Beth Dittmer, Propulsion Integration Division Chief.  “Advanced Manufacturing allows us to either manufacture the parts a lot quicker or repair them a lot quicker.  It also allows us to save parts that we were traditionally throwing away because they were beyond their life.” 
In addition to jets spending less time on the tarmac waiting for parts, the cost savings allows the Air Force to spend that money on other programs or efforts.
The first manifestation of this effort is the Pacer Edge program which includes collaboration with General Electric, maker of the F110 engine used on F-16 fighters.  The program objective was to stand up the capability for Air Force React Lab at Tinker AFB, Oklahoma to print hardware that can go on propulsion systems.  While work on the three-phase program is far from done, Dittmer said it led to production of the first part. 
“We got our first part, which was the F110 sump pump cover approved through airworthiness earlier this year,” she said.  “It is now flying on F-16 aircraft.” 

Editor's note: The original story can be viewed on the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center website.