General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) has opened a new Center of Excellence for Additive Design and Manufacturing (AD&M). Known for the design and manufacture of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), radars, and electro-optic and related mission systems solutions, GA-ASI has been working for a few years now on the effective implementation of AM processes within its production environment.
“GA-ASI is continually looking for ways to enable, accelerate, and integrate Additive Manufacturing technologies into our designs, our operations, and our products,” said GA-ASI President David R. Alexander. “Through our AD&M Center of Excellence, we’re using a structured and stringent qualification process for AM applications that delivers a positive business case for us over conventional manufacturing methods. Through a comprehensive and holistic approach, our team of AM professionals are working to increase the adoption of AM parts for the benefit of our aircraft and ultimately, our customers.”
With over 300 flight components already qualified for AM, GA-ASI will further develop and qualify flight-capable AM applications. Its current portfolio of AM solutions is made up of the key elements required for bringing an AM application from a prototype stage (print right once) to a production-level stage (print right always).
GA-ASI performs some recurring production activities at its AD&M Center of Excellence, but the demand for rapid-reaction and low-rate manufacturing has required the development of a strong AM manufacturing supply chain for the overflow production of complex end-use thermoplastics and metal parts. GA-ASI estimates that the use of AM parts on its new UAS platform – the MQ-9B – has saved the company over $2 million in tooling costs and over $300,000 per aircraft in recurring cost avoidance by using approximately 240 AM parts on that aircraft platform. Overall, the number of AM applications continues to grow rapidly, fueled by the AM ecosystem established at GA-ASI. As a result, the company already has more than 10,000 additively manufactured components on the aircraft it has produced, and the new MQ-9B SkyGuardian® and SeaGuardian® models are leading the industry in the use of AM parts.
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