Open Additive LLC of Beavercreek, Ohio, has been awarded a Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Phase II development effort to support the Air Force’s Landing Gear Test Facility (LGTF) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Managed by the 704th Test Group, the LGTF uses advanced test methods to evaluate aircraft tire wear resulting from tire-runway interaction. At the heart of the LGTF is the 168-inch internal drum dynamometer, which was developed and commissioned in 1998 to test tire performance using a rotating surface. To accurately replicate real-world conditions, the LGTF launched its “3D Runway Surface Scanning and Surface Recreation Project,” which uses 3D scanning of actual runways to develop digital models. A key challenge is the ability to precisely fabricate runway test tiles that both match the 3D scans and can stand up to repeated testing. Metal 3D printing provides promise for such capability. In the Phase I effort, Open Additive’s team demonstrated the ability of its laser powder-bed fusion (LPBF) systems to accurately reproduce durable runway surface features. 

Under the $750,000, two-year contract, Open Additive will advance and leverage its large-format LPBF capabilities for this application. To be suitable for end use in the dynamometer, the 3D-printed tiles must be 20 inches long and 5 inches wide; have precise surface features matching 3D scans; be printed or machined to specified curvature; and be made from a lightweight alloy to minimize weight. The company’s 24-inch x 24-inch x 12-inch (600- x 600- x 300-mm) LPBF testbed will serve as the primary platform for production of sub-scale and full-scale parts.