(This article was originally published on NewsOK.com, November 19, 2018. Written by Eddie Roach)

Additive Manufacturing: Cost cutting and a future for Oklahoma’s workforce

Why spend almost $1,300 to replace a single, specialized coffee cup when it can be repaired for 50 cents? That’s the essence of an October inquiry by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson.

In his letter, Grassley said that 25 replacement cups, each costing roughly $1,280, have been bought this year. In the past three years, the 60th Aerial Port Squadron at Travis Air Force Base in California spent nearly $56,000 to replace broken cups.

As reported in Air Force Times: “The cups, which plug into outlets on cargo planes to reheat liquids such as water or coffee, have a faulty plastic handle that easily breaks when the cups are dropped. And because replacement parts for the cup are no longer made, the Air Force has had to order a whole new cup when the handle breaks.”

In her reply to Grassley, Wilson agreed it was “irresponsible” to spend thousands of dollars on parts that are out of production when technology exists to produce the parts affordably.

In July, she ordered a new Air Force Rapid Sustainment Office to be created to find ways to develop and deliver parts. Air Force Times reported that this office showed it can 3-D print replacement handles for the reheating cup for about 50 cents each.

“We will no longer pay premiums for things we can manufacture on our own,” Wilson said in announcing the two-year test program. “We will leverage agile manufacturing and reform legacy sustainment processes to drive down costs and meet warfighter needs rapidly.”

This paradigm shift to “manufacture our own” replacement parts has a much wider application than replacing cup handles.

That’s why Rose State College is partnering with Moog Inc. to develop additive manufacturing (AM) training for its adult workforce program that will benefit both the military and civilian concerns. Moog is an industry leader in aircraft flight controls system and flight control components.

“Additive manufacturing, which includes the commonly used term ‘3D printing,’ is a rapidly growing and changing discipline,” said Bryan Murphy of Moog Inc. “Value of AM is that it is faster and cheaper than fabrication. Particularly when older aircraft, parts may not be readily available. Metal AM provides an efficient, cost-effective way to replace parts.”

Moog, which has been involved in additive manufacturing since 2003, provided a metal laser powder bed infusion based 3D printer to Rose State for the training and will assist in developing a multi-level curriculum.

“We are the only education institution in the state with a 3D printer of this magnitude,” said Dean Dr. Wayne Jones, of Rose State’s Engineering and Science Division.

Planned curriculum includes three courses, ranging from two days to five days each. The certificate courses include:

– Introduction to Additive Manufacturing (AM-101)
3D Printing/AM are hot topics among many manufacturers and across industries today – as these technologies will revolutionize manufacturing and the supply chain from concept into reality. The Introduction course is designed to give a process overview of the different additive manufacturing system, economics, and health and safety for a production environment. (2 days)

– Engineering and Design for Metal AM (AM-201)With the Design Engineer, in mind this course builds on the fundamental provided in the Introduction. With a focus on Laser Powder Bed Fusion (LPBF), a range of topics including designing for metal AM to process and quality controls will be discussed. (5 days)

– Practical Application for Metal AM (AM-301)Part of every technological revolution is the insertion of the technology into everyday life. Preparing current workforce for new technology insertion is a struggle that many businesses face today. The Practical Application course give students hand-on metal AM machine and process training to enter a production environment. Filled with machine lab exercises and limited classroom training, this course is designed for the metal AM machine operator. (5 days)

The first class has already been offered to 58 individuals with a collection of military and civilian students. Other courses will go on-line in early 2019.

“Rose State sees this as an important advancement in its workforce education program as additive manufacturing becomes more prevalent in military and civilian settings,” said Tamara Pratt, Vice President of External Affairs at Rose State College.

Forbes, reporting on the Wohlers Report 2018, said the AM industry exceeds $7.3 billion. According to the report, an estimated 1,768 metal AM systems were sold in 2017, compared to 983 systems in 2016, an increase of nearly 80 percent. Wohlers Associates is recognized as one of the preeminent 3D printer experts in the world.

A Department of Defense roadmap report on additive manufacturing prepared by Deloitte consultants identified these non-technology factors crucial to AM’s role in defense uses:

– Cultural change: Increasing knowledge of and comfort with AM, driving institutional acceptance.

– Workforce development: Readying the Department of Defense workforce (acquisition, R&D, manufacturing, etc.) with the skills to harness AM.

“Rose State is positioning itself to be a leader in addressing these factors,” Pratt said.

For more information on the classes go to TrainingatRose.com

This article is sponsored by Rose State College.