N241-033 TITLE: Inert Gas Reclamation for Minimally-Enclosed Directed Energy Deposition (DED) Additive Manufacturing (AM) Equipment
OUSD (R&E) CRITICAL TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Advanced Materials
OBJECTIVE: Develop a modular system designed to reclaim inert gas used during the metal Directed Energy Deposition (DED) Additive Manufacturing (AM) process.
DESCRIPTION: Currently, AM equipment suitable for afloat use is limited. The current capabilities were installed to support the development integration requirements for AM equipment, but is limited to polymer machines. Current metal AM technologies are designed for the lab or machinery spaces ashore, and have not been configured for the harsh shipboard environment. The inclusion of a metal AM capability shipboard would drastically improve ship self-sufficiency and increase readiness.
There are increased needs for AM afloat as it is explicitly identified in the COMNAVSEA Campaign Plan 3.0 as a technology focus area. The Navy directly supports efforts to integrate AM into the Fleet and support a more self-sufficient ship. The Navy seeks to maximize its use of AM to fabricate "hard to source" or obsolete parts, reduce cost, field more effective systems, and reduce reliance on vulnerable supply chains through production at the point of need.
Current metal AM technology can be classified under powder bed fusion (PBF), DED, material extrusion, sheet lamination, or hybrid processes. These processes all have their benefits and limitations from a part production standpoint. At this time, these metal AM system installations are typically expected to be on the shop floor in industrial or lab settings. There is an interest to integrate these metal AM systems in more expeditionary settings to increase warfighter readiness and increase the Navy's distributed manufacturing capabilities and self-sufficiency. The operational conditions within these expeditionary settings include ship motion, ship vibration, shock, ventilation, and electromagnetic interference (EMI). In order to successfully install metal AM equipment and enable adequate operation of the equipment, the machine must not experience severe degraded performance under these conditions. Testing of these conditions in the lab environment should occur to determine system performance under shipboard environmental conditions.
Specifically related to this SBIR topic, these metal AM machines use an inert shielding gas to manufacture components, a consumable that is a logistical challenge in an expeditionary environment. This inert gas is utilized to provide an inert environment for the deposition of the material to form but is off-gassed into the atmosphere. Capturing, cleaning, reusing, and overall reclaiming this gas would be beneficial to utilizing this process in a deployed environment because there would only need to be a small amount on hand for startup that could then be reclaimed throughout the life of the builds. The solution must not impede on the operations of the DED process, ensuring that there are no capability reductions as a result of the gas reclamation. Another aspect to this solution is that the manufacturing envelope will not be completely sealed to the outside atmosphere, which adds complexity to the reclamation strategy. As a result, the company shall take this into account when selecting alternatives to investigate. In addition, this solution would require shipboard hardening, a small footprint not exceeding the footprint of the machine in which it is installed, high efficiency, modularity, and innovative approach to meet the topic criteria.
This SBIR topic will address the current shipboard mitigation requirements associated with shipboard integration and performance of metal AM. The product developed from this topic could result in the establishment of a Navy vendor for shipboard AM equipment. In addition, the current modifications, costs, and qualification to Commercial Off the Shelf (COTS) equipment would no longer be required if the system was designed around the shipboard environment. AM has the potential for major readiness impacts for the Fleet, improving self-sufficiency and reducing the reliance on the supply chain.
PHASE I: Develop a concept for a gas reclamation system(s) into a minimally closed DED machine. This means that the manufacturing envelope will not be completely sealed to the outside atmosphere, which adds complexity to the reclamation strategy. As a result, the company shall take this into account when selecting alternatives to investigate. Feasibility shall be demonstrated by conceptual models, drawings, integration schematics, and description of workflow and operation. The concept during this stage should also consider the operation of the machine, requirements for installation, and lifetime maintenance that is necessary. The Phase I Option, if exercised, will include the initial design specifications and capabilities description to build a prototype solution in Phase II.
PHASE II: Develop and deliver a prototype which will be evaluated based on the overall integration into an existing machine. This prototype shall have no interruptions with the main functionality of the system and tie seamlessly into the existing workflow. It shall also be user friendly by providing an easy-to-use interface, warnings if something is out of normal operating parameters, and minimal maintenance. The prototype shall also be compact into as small of a form-factor as possible due to the limited space available in the expeditionary environment. The system should aim to be able to fit within the footprint of the identified DED machine or be no larger than the size of the machine.
PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Support the Navy in transitioning the reclamation capability to Navy use. Use the feedback from Phase II and perform necessary changes to complete the prototype. The final product shall be a turn-key system that can be integrated into machines that are already deployed or planned to be deployed. This would include, but not be limited to, having Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) documentation, installation instructions, and troubleshooting tips and tricks, as necessary. The platform in which this machine would be targeted would be the installations of this type of equipment through the NAVSEA 05T1 AM Program Office’s Afloat Program of Record on the following, but not limited to, large deck platforms and regional maintenance centers.
The dual use of this developed final product outside of the military will be able to reach a wide breadth of companies with similar DED machines. The ability to have a system like installed on other machines means a logistical burden of resupplying inert gas for the manufacturing process is lifted from all users.
KEYWORDS: Directed Energy Deposition; Gas Reclamation; Additive Manufacturing; Inert Gas; Hybrid Metal Additive Manufacturing; Expeditionary Additive Manufacturing; Gas Recycling
** TOPIC NOTICE **
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