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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.

The future of AM appears to be limitless, and both Bill and Chris have said that SAE has a crucial role to play in its development. What direction that development goes in, however, continues to be up to the innovators—with SAE 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.