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  • Writer's pictureRobert Medve

HEPBURN AND SONS LLC AND PARTNERS AWARDED SBIR PHASE II TO PRINT ATTRITABLE AIRCRAFT PARTS FOR USAF



On October 19th, 2023, Hepburn and Sons LLC, teamed with MELD Manufacturing Corporation and University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI), was awarded a Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) Phase II Commercial Solutions Opening (CSO) contract. The project is targeted at utilizing MELD Manufacturing Corporation’s Additive Friction Stir Deposition (AFSD) metal additive manufacturing (AM) technology to prototype and test attritable airframe parts for the U.S. Air Force. The Hepburn and Sons/Meld/UDRI team was selected for this project as a follow-on to a successful Phase I effort, in which the team successfully identified critical airframe structures that are excellent candidates for applying their signature AFSD process. This Phase II program, in addition to research and design efforts, is anticipated to provide full scale demonstration of the AFSD process capability to replace conventionally manufactured aluminum and titanium structural airframe components.


The AFSD process offers the Air Force and the entire Department of Defense (DoD) a major opportunity to save costs in manufacturing by using AM to print large component parts which are difficult to build using conventional tools and methods, have become obsolete, or present production challenges with long procurement lead time.


This is the third project awarded to the Hepburn and Sons and MELD team over the last year and a half and continues their collective mission to investigate the ability of the MELD AM technology to help resolve challenges in the U.S. defense sector generally by attacking supply chain disruptions caused by scarcity of spare parts along with long lead times on parts that result in excessive backlog.


Hepburn and Sons LLC is a small business founded in 2010 whose initial focus was to provide expert consulting, engineering analysis, and advisory and design services in the areas of naval engineering and naval architecture. The company has grown rapidly over the last few years and is now leading research and development efforts for the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, U.S. Coast Guard as well as the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. In order to execute their mission, Hepburn scouts for innovative small businesses that have technology that can be utilized to support the U.S. defense sector. MELD is one of those unique and innovative companies that have developed and introduced a disruptive technology to the U.S. defense sector.


MELD Manufacturing Corporation offers 3D printing and hybrid machines for printing metal components using the MELD process. The MELD process is a patented revolutionary solid-state technology for additive manufacturing of metal parts without melting the metal. The open-atmosphere MELD process is capable of printing large metal parts at a scale not yet seen in the metal additive market. The company’s mission is to deliver reliable equipment using its award winning, patented technology to print in any metal, at unsurpassed speed, at any size, with forged properties.


University of Dayton Research Institute is a national leader in scientific and engineering research, serving government, industry, and nonprofit customers. Their professional engineers and scientists conduct research and provide support in a wide variety of technical areas, ensuring customer success by delivering affordable and innovative solutions, leading edge technologies and outstanding service. Their accomplishments are marked by integrity, respect for others, and commitment to the individual growth of our employees. Our major research areas include materials, energy and the environment, aeropropulsion, structures, mechanical systems, sensors and human factors.


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