RUAG Australia is collaborating on a two-year project to investigate laser metal deposition’s uses for component repair and manufacturing.
“Strategically speaking, a shift to LMD technology means less downtime for repairs and a dramatic increase in the availability and readiness of aircraft,” says Neil Matthews, senior manager of advanced technology and engineering solutions at RUAG Australia. “Instead of waiting for spare parts to arrive from a warehouse, an effective solution will now be available locally.”
“The ultimate goal of the project is to develop indigenous capability that provides innovative and cost-effective sustainment solutions through the use of additive metal technologies which, in turn, reduce life-cycle costs and maintain reliable operational availability through repair and, when necessary, real-time manufacture,” Matthews explains.
The project is currently focused on how LMD could be applied to existing military aircraft platforms and newer systems, such as the F-35 fleet, but the team believes the technology could potentially be transferable to civil aircraft or other industries.
According to David Chuter, CEO and managing director of IMCRC, the Australian aviation industry stands to benefit significantly from the research project. The Australian Air Force’s estimated total cost of replacing damaged aircraft parts is more than AU$230 million.
Matthews says RUAG Australia has been working with LMD since 2014 and the company has already identified additional repair applications for the technology, as well as a titanium component that is likely to be manufactured as a demonstration of LMD.
The research project began in March 2018 and is scheduled to finish in March 2020.