Maturing additive manufacturing technologies to fabricate metal electronics chassis on Navy platforms will reduce cost and lead time. (Raytheon image)
The Navy Metalworking Center (NMC) is conducting a project to quantify the efficacy of various dimensional distortion mitigation approaches.
The production of monolithic aluminum alloy chassis (or frames) for electronics applications poses various manufacturing challenges. Traditional (subtractive) manufacturing processes and traditional joining processes (e.g., vacuum brazing), when applied to electronics chassis, are hampered by part count, lead time, and manufacturing expense. Additionally, such techniques are not amenable with rapid design modification, testing, and production. Additive manufacturing (AM) has been proposed to meet those challenges, but AM is subject to dimensional distortion.
An Integrated Project Team (IPT) will evaluate factors such as alloy selection, process parameter manipulation, and post-build heat treatment in manufacturing chassis for electronics using AM technologies. This project will identify typical key design features in fluid flow-through chassis, and then design, additively manufacture, and test representative aluminum alloy chassis with those features. Testing will include detailed dimensional characterization, tensile testing, hardness assessments, and thermal conductivity measurements.
Fabrication of metal electronics chassis using evolving AM technologies offers the Navy the ability to produce new chassis designs with a reduction in total procurement cost and more than 50 percent reduction in lead time relative to the current state-of-the-art, particularly for fluid-cooled chassis requiring internal hermetic fluid channels. In addition, AM of monolithic or modular joined chassis reduces the total part count by 50-90 percent. This part-count reduction results in decreased initial procurement labor and overhead, simplifies assembly of the Line Replaceable Unit, and reduces the hidden overhead costs that propagate through the life-cycle logistics trail. Lastly, with the reduced lead time and direct digital manufacturing approach, the ability for cost-effective rapid reconfiguration of electronics systems to meet emerging and adaptive threats is significantly improved.
Multiple weapon systems are candidates to benefit from the successful outcome of this project. A specific weapon system and implementation timeframe will be selected concurrently with development of initial AM builds.
Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems
North Carolina State University