The project team intends to develop Ultrasonic Additive Manufacturing (UAM) manufacturing processes supporting the Space Launch System to create structures with superior mechanical properties and increased reliability. UAM-enabled structures are an important enabler for minimized touch labor and final assembly steps, increased reliability and reduced cost. UAM, by its nature, enables improved lead times by directly printing parts in one machine at one time, eliminating part movements from process to process (and vendor to vendor). The solid state UAM bond in conjunction with an additive / subtractive system allow for custom structures to be manufactured with reinforcing members in any three-dimensional configuration. These composites can be created directly on existing structures manufactured through other processes, resulting in launch structures with lower mass and improved process lead time. The solid state nature of the UAM bond allows for combining any metal combination without formation of brittle intermetallics. This enables layer by layer material changes for complex graded metal structures. This can directly lead to lighter structures with increased structural efficiency by combining multiple functions in one component. The UAM application has potential for manufacturing in space. Processes that melt the substrate material are dangerous for the operator especially during long-duration space flight. UAM has no high energy beams, splatter, or molten metal.
The initial application of high performance UAM-enabled structures will likely be in NASA, defense and commercial space structure programs, in that order. This estimate recognizes the high performance technology leading nature of the organizations and their missions. The project team already services aerospace customers. Agreements with these customers uniformly prohibit publication of the details of our work with them.