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Carnegie Mellon University’s Next Manufacturing Center and Manufacturing Futures Initiative (MFI) will be researching the production of aviation components thanks to being selected to participate in NASA’s University Leadership Initiative (ULI). The research team will be a part of the Transformative Aeronautics Concepts Program, which strives to increase the efficiency, sustainability, and safety of aviation.

Tony Rollet and Jack Beuth, faculty co-directors of Next Manufacturing, will lead the Carnegie Mellon project, with faculty Erica Fuchs, Elizabeth Holm, and Kenji Shimada joining the team as well. The team will receive $7 million over three years to test and analyze various methods of designing, fabricating, and post-processing of aircraft components using 3D printing technologies.

“We are truly honored to be selected for this NASA ULI,” said Rollett, a professor of materials science and engineering. “Over the last eight years, metals AM has had a significant impact on aviation manufacturing for jet engine components, airframe structural elements, and other applications. We believe this project will continue to substantially advance U.S. manufacturing capabilities in the aerospace and aviation industries.”

Professor Rollet isn’t the only one who thinks that as Lockheed Martin, General Electric, Pratt & Whitney, Northrop Grumman, Metal Powder Works, Siemens, and Materials Solutions, among others, are also partnered with the project. It makes sense. All of those companies manufacture parts for planes; any gains realized by the project could directly improve their lead times and profit margins.

Testing will take place in Carnegie Mellon’s new advanced manufacturing facility in the Hazelwood neighborhood of Pittsburgh that’s being constructed inside a historic steel mill, Mill 19. Mill 19 will be home to MFI, the Next Manufacturing Center, and the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM). As such, it will serve as a center for advanced additive manufacturing collaboration.

This dynamic will certainly benefit the NASA ULI project as Professor of mechanical engineering Jack Beuth explains, “Process qualification is one of the most important challenges for additive manufacturing over the next five to 10 years. This project, our university-industry team, and the facilities at Mill 19 are coming together at just the right time.”

An initial goal is to create a qualification framework for laser powder bed fusion 3D printing, which will greatly reduce the manufacturing costs of short production runs and replacement parts. The framework will then be used to help small contractors qualify their AM equipment and processes to produce aviation components.




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