UTC 3DI LabUTC has been awarded a Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) contract to develop and demonstrate additive manufacturing (AM) to print long-lasting material tiles to simulate runway surfaces. The tiles will be used to support predictive tire wear testing at the Air Force’s landing gear test facility at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The morphology of runway surfaces plays a crucial role on the performance and longevity of aircraft tires, making it important to accurately replicate fine surface features in laboratory tests. Currently, runway surface replicas are fabricated by specialized concrete manufacturers. Such an approach is expensive, time consuming, and does not allow for accurate imitation of many surfaces. A promising path is to 3D scan representative surfaces, generate 3D models from the scan data, and then fabricate the tiles using additive manufacturing techniques (aka, 3D printing).

Selective laser melting (SLM) is an attractive avenue for printing such tiles. SLM uses laser energy to solidify metal or ceramic powders in a layer-by-layer process to build up a three-dimensional part. UTC’s OPENSLM™ line of open-architecture systems offers a compelling advantage for this application, as these systems can be configured for project needs, provide full control of build parameters, have no restrictions on powder feedstock, and allow for the incorporation of novel processing capabilities. UTC’s approach includes fabrication of metal/ceramic composite tiles using an OPENSLM system outfitted with surface measurement sensors and a correction algorithm specifically designed to provide a precise clone of the actual surface. The metal/ceramic tiles should provide excellent mechanical performance.

Led by Dr. Olga Ivanova, the work will be conducted at UTC’s 3D Innovation Laboratory at the Russ Research Center in Beavercreek, Ohio. Established in 2017, the 3DI Lab’s mission is to lower the barriers inhibiting the adoption of metal and multi-material additive manufacturing across industries. Dr. Ivanova serves as the 3DI Lab’s Principal Scientist for Multi-Material AM/3DP. She has over 8 years of experience in the field, having served as Principal Investigator for numerous AM/3DP projects supporting the Department of Defense and NASA.

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