The U.S. Air Force awarded Albuquerque, N.M.-based Optomec a $1 million contract to deliver a high-volume production metal additive-manufacturing (AM) system for refurbishing turbine engine components, including titanium parts. The equipment will have a range of capabilities, including an automation system for batch processing, an oxygen-free controlled atmosphere and an adaptive vision system. The automated metal AM system will be capable of processing tens of thousands of repairs per year, with an initial focus on tip refurbishment for turbine blades. It will be installed at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City.

Optomec’s metal AM repair solutions enable restoration of existing parts, with a demonstrated cost savings of up to 70%. In addition to significant cost savings, the Air Force will benefit from shortened, more predictable lead times and reduced supply-chain dependencies. The system is based on Optomec’s proprietary LENS technology. LENS uses directed energy deposition (DED) in which a highly concentrated stream of metal powder is jetted into a molten pool created by the focus of a laser beam. By precisely controlling the melt pool and the powder flow, a high-performance metal structure is built up either in the form of a fully printed part or as a local deposit onto an existing component to repair it.