University of North Texas R&D to Boost Manufacturing Military Machinery
Herman Shen, chair for UNT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering
New research and development being conducted at the University of North Texas (UNT), Denton, Texas, could have a major impact on future military operations. The research will analyze the Laser Beam Powder Bed Fusion (PBF-LB) additive manufacturing process. The manufacturing will be done with equipment in UNT’s Center for Agile and Adaptive Additive Manufacturing. The research could allow military vessels to produce their own replacement parts that are more reliable and durable.
“Submarine or aircraft carriers go out to sea for up to six months sometimes,” Herman Shen, chair for UNT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, said, “If they need repairs, they can’t just easily call someone to send the parts. They have to build their own.”
To speed up manufacturing, the military is interested in metal AM. However, AM parts could come with inherit defects, Shen said. That’s why his focus will be to pinpoint where the defects first form, by researching the process in reverse. Shen’s team will look at the end product and test for any defects or deformations in the parts. They’ll then use artificial intelligence to find where the defect could have formed during manufacturing.
Meanwhile, assistant professor Hector Siller and his researchers will examine the process as a whole. They will analyze fabrication plans, microstructure assessments and monitoring processes. The goal is to gain an overall picture of what happens to the materials during manufacturing and post-production testing. Their comprehensive findings will identify where improvements can be made. Shen and Siller will then incorporate those changes and start the process again.
“We will have feedback from that performance, reform the methods and then have a closed loop of improvement,” Siller said. Shen says a researcher at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, one of his former students, will also visit to evaluate their unique testing process.