The College of Engineering and the US Department of Energy’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility (MDF) at ORNL (Oak Ridge National Laboratory) have embarked on a new initiative in additive manufacturing for the aerospace industry. As a part of the contractual arrangement with Aerojet Rocketdyne and the Air Force Research Laboratory, the program centers around the acquisition of three high-end laser machines, two Concept Laser X Line systems, one of which is installed at MDF and the other at Aerojet Rocketdyne’s and one EOS M400, located at Atlantic Precision’s Florida location. The program includes the backing of the Advanced Manufacturing Office of the Department of Energy.
Each machine uses a kind of additive manufacturing known as laser powder bed fusion to convert metal powder into liquid rocket engine (LRE) components. The advanced piece of equipment will allow the continued growth of UT’s expertise in that focus, said Professor Suresh Babu, the UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair in Advanced Manufacturing. The new initiative will have an impact on the College of Engineering that goes beyond equipment. It’s the latest step in increasing expertise in advanced manufacturing (AM) for ORNL. The new arrangement and additional investment allow them to work with UT to develop and research new metal capabilities, a key priority for the company. Aerojet Rocketdyne is one of the leading manufacturers of rocket propulsion systems in the world. Their focus is on developing lower-cost engines, with the involvement of UT and ORNL providing materials and manufacturing expertise to the program.