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SAE Leaders share perspectives from RAPID + TCT 2023

Posted: May 22, 2023

North America’s largest additive manufacturing (AM) event wrapped earlier this month, with SAE International engaging in a big way.

SAE Vice President of Programs & Professional Engagement Chris Ciuca and Aerolytics LLC President Bill Bihlman represented SAE at RAPID + TCT, talking industry outlook, opportunities and challenges in additive, and parts development.

The industry has been undergoing a critical transformation process involving AM technologies, with which SAE has been involved since 2002. And according to Chris and Bill, there’s an uncharted territory present within these rapid advancements. 

It’s a challenge with many moving parts and, at this point, with one key market-related question to answer.

“How do we how do we collaborate to help to help industry move further and faster?” Chris said.

During Chris’s keynote, AM Industry Outlook: Opportunities and Challenges, he discussed the AM industry’s scale, and how SAE plays a role within this ecosystem.

“What we face right now as a total community is a new space [and] a new kind of unknown space for production, so we have a bunch of organizations that are trying to help industry, government, and academia,” Chris said.

Within this new ecosystem is a need for standardization in manufacturing that SAE can help fill.

Bill’s talk, The Path to AM Part Certification for Commercial Aircraft, explored that potential in the aerospace side of mobility. While no specific certification criteria for AM parts has been developed, certain existing elements can be leveraged to satisfy the means of compliance for civil and military aviation.

He described how SAE and other organizations can provide guidelines for aerospace-quality flight hardware. Bill mentioned 5 key steps:

  • Facility Qualification
  • Machine Qualification
  • Material & Process Control
  • Material Allowable Database
  • Fatigue & Damage Tolerance Framework

And as SAE knows well as a neutral convener of experts from across industry, broad collaboration is key to ensure safety and quality.

“We’re working hand in hand with the companies, as well as regulators, including the FAA and EASA, to develop criteria. Once we qualify and fix that process in the perfect world, we will eventually be able to produce flight hardware. Additive manufacturing is extremely flexible. However, one of the key challenges is to provide a controlled, fixed process required for aerospace, while still ensuring an agile enterprise,” Bill said.

He also mentioned some of the limitations to “point design.” In particular, changes in design and/or application of the part may warrant a costly series of retests. Nevertheless, point design has been the most common certification path since the industry lacks a public database of material design values.

“So that's been the path, but it's not easily scalable,” Bill said.

SAE ITC’s Vice President of Aerospace, Michael McNair, noted that this shift in technology focus has been a long-time coming.

“Additive manufacturing is not new, it's just that it's becoming more and more disruptive,” Michael said.

He mentioned how AM technologies continue to incorporate wider and wider varieties of application.

“I was at a conference in Frankfurt last year, and they were 3D printing chairs and tables out of wood, out of sawdust and resin. You go to bakeries, and they have printers that that make use of 3D printed chocolate, which can be used for cake toppers,” Michael said.

As AM technologies continue to develop, Michael emphasized two areas in which the industry is predicted to set its goals: Rate of Production and Certification

“You want to have additive manufactured parts that are certifiable so that they can be used in safety critical or medical critical situations. The part cannot fail, and if it and if it were to fail it would have to do so gracefully. You must understand the material to understand its properties and expected lifespan,” Michael said.

The future of AM appears to be limitless, and both Bill, Chris and Michael have said that SAE and SAE ITC have a crucial role to play in its development. What direction that development goes in, however, continues to be up to the innovators—with Fullsight offering guidance and resources through standards and recommended practice on how to effectively operate and produce new technologies.

“We're trying to bound the unknown in the process…just because you can print it doesn't mean you should,” Bill said. Additive is definitely forging the next frontier in manufacturing and design.

See what SAE is doing within additive manufacturing.