NASA has identified a number of components within the SLS, including RS-25 engine parts, which provide the opportunity for significant cost and time savings if additive manufacturing can be used for their production. These high-value AM applications are typically for complex structures that require forming, machining, and welding of multiple pieces using traditional manufacturing methods. SLM provides economic advantages by enabling replacement of such multi-piece machined and welded components with single-piece elements. The proposed modeling tools will provide the needed understanding of how material microstructure evolves during SLM fabrication of such components as a single unit, enabling increased confidence in the resulting part quality.
DoD and their prime contractors will also benefit from rapid process development and improved control of material qualities when applying AM to achieve cost-effective low-volume production. A number of DoD agencies - in particular, DARPA, Air Force and Navy - are also evaluating the functional benefits that can be obtained by a combination of advanced design methods (topology optimization) and AM. The modeling tools and fundamental understanding resulting from this effort will be particularly valuable for quickly developing processes to produce AM fabricated components with high confidence in material quality.