Third Wave Systems to support the U.S. Navy on next innovative machining project

Phase I project aims to reduce consumable tooling costs by 50%

MINNEAPOLIS, MINN. (April 19, 2018) – Third Wave Systems was awarded its 32nd Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) project from the U.S. Department of Defense. Under the latest Phase I project, Precision Machining of Composite Structures, Third Wave Systems will demonstrate innovative machining techniques the U.S. Navy needs to manufacture better composite structures.

Third Wave Systems will integrate its physics-based modeling technologies from current software packages AdvantEdge and Production Module and its data collection capabilities to create a closed-loop adaptive control machining system that will monitor real-time force and temperature data, adjust machining parameters to control damage, optimize the material removal and improve tool life.

“We are really excited about another Phase I project with the Navy,” Kerry Marusich, Third Wave Systems President said. “We know we have the right technologies and the right engineers to help the Navy with their current need to improve composite drilling processes. We’re looking forward to getting started and then down the line have the opportunity to commercialize this new cutting-edge technology for the rest of the marketplace.”

The Navy is looking for a solution for its drilling of holes in aerospace composite structures that dramatically reduces machining-induced damage, improves manufacturing efficiency, and reduces consumable tooling cost by 50 percent. Currently, fiber reinforced polymer (FRP) composites present problems during the drilling processes that can cause damage and poor part quality. A validated analysis tool is needed to understand the impact of trying different machining strategies in hopes to minimize costly trial-and-error approaches for developing new strategies – this is where Third Wave Systems comes in.

The Minneapolis-based small business has proposed results for Phase I project that includes compiling all of the data and integrating it into a digital twin (a virtual representation of the part, providing needed traceability of the part manufacturing process). Furthermore, these results will also allow the Navy to eliminate trial-and-error testing, increase machining efficiency, improve quality of machined composites, reduce consumable tooling by 50 percent. The interoperability among machines, tools, sensors and people, a core design principle of Industry 4.0, will drastically improve quality control, increase manufacturing efficiency and reduce operational costs.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison and Niagara Cutter, LLC will be bringing their research and expertise to the project as well to support Third Wave Systems in achieving the best results for the Navy.


  1. This material is based upon work supported by the U.S. Navy under Contract No. N6833518C0457
  2. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Navy.


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