Air Force, HRL Laboratories Partner to Test 3D-Printed Materials for Hypersonic Aircraft

The U.S. Air Force and HRL Laboratories have entered an agreement to test materials produced through additive manufacturing, or three-dimensional printing, for potential future use in hypersonic aircraft.

Scientists from the Air Force Research Laboratory tested silicon oxycarbide materials that HRL manufactured using 3D printing technology and pre-ceramic resin chemistry, the Defense Logistics Agency said Wednesday.

The Cooperative Research and Development – Material Transfer Agreement authorized the transfer of SiOC materials from HRL to AFRL’s Aerospace Systems Directorate for testing.

Jamie Szmodis, a hypersonic research engineer at the Aerospace Systems Directorate, said the materials could be used for hypersonic aircraft engine parts such as struts and flame holders if they can withstand temperatures of about 3,200 degrees Fahrenheit during hypersonic flight.

Szmodis added that the agreement let the Air Force conduct tests without purchasing the materials and share test results with HRL.

The engineer formed a team of AFRL scientists to run materials analysis and heat treatments; a mechanical analysis focused on the changes in materials amid high temperatures; and the analysis of the materials’ characteristics in a high-enthalpy instrumentation test facility.

The team delivered the final report on the test results to HRL in March.

AFRL and HRL are currently using the data to guide the production of new additively-manufactured ceramics.

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