The University of Dayton Research Institute plans to use a $3 million grant from the Ohio Third Frontier Fund to develop a state supply chain for the printing and production of three-dimensional plastic engine components for the airplane industry.
“It is all about economic development in Ohio. We had to develop jobs in Ohio,” said Brian Rice, head of the UDRI's Multi-Scale Composites and Polymers Division, in a telephone interview.
The research institute is working to develop a nanomaterial to reinforce polymer feedstock that will increase strength, stiffness and electrical conductivity.
It is collaborating with PolyOne Corp. and Rapid Prototype Plus Manufacturing Inc., both of Avon Lake, Ohio. PolyOne will scale up production of the feedstock needed for mass manufacturing, while RP+M will handle manufacturing.
Stratasys Inc. of Eden Prairie, Minn., is helping to integrate the new materials into the additive manufacturing systems.
The partners will supply GE Aviation of Evendale, Ohio. The company has six major facilities and more than 9,000 employees in the Dayton area. Many other companies will be able to use the parts as well.
Rice said additive manufacturing has evolved in the last five years and is expected to grow rapidly.
The institute has been researching ways to produce airplane parts and decided on the Stratasys system of using fused deposition modeling. The system reduces waste by using only as much material as necessary. It also eliminates the need for bolts, screws and welding, Rice said.
Using the printer to produce parts with newer materials can add up to savings, he said.
“Lighter parts mean greater fuel efficiency in vehicles and aircraft that use them. Another advantage is the cost savings that comes from a part-as-needed process, because you don't need to ship parts or find a place to warehouse them,” said Jeff DeGrange, vice president of Stratasys, in a statement.
Rice said UDRI can start working on the project with a Stratasys printer used by the University of Dayton Engineering Department. Part of the grant will allow the purchase of a second printer.
The project will develop more jobs for Ohio, Rice said, especially in manufacturing. The grant is expected to lead to as many as 85 new jobs in the next five years. It will also give Dayton students a chance to work with cutting-edge technology.
UDRI was founded in 1956 to do research on behalf of the U.S. Air Force.