Precision Machining of Composite Structures
Third Wave Systems is excited to work on a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) project with the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) to better understand and improve the machining of countersunk holes in fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP) structures. The project objective is to develop an innovative process that can effectively machine holes in composite structures while preventing damage.
The difficulties facing the machining of composite structures are unique. They are significantly different than those that occur during the drilling of metal structures. The abrasive nature of the FRP materials drastically reduces the life of traditional tungsten carbide tools, leading to more frequent tool changes. This rapid tool wear also negatively impacts the geometric accuracy of the drilled holes.
The heat generated from the drilling process can also cause severe damage to the FRP material, resulting in difficult-to-detect damage. Finally, poor drilling techniques can cause delamination of the FRP structure. Currently, FRP materials are being drilled using outdated and inefficient techniques adapted from traditional metalworking.
Third Wave Systems is developing modeling technologies to improve the process of drilling countersunk fastener holes. The goal is to limit damage to the FRP structure while maintaining the quality and precision of the holes. This Phase II project was earned after Phase 1’s successful feasibility demonstration of the technology.
Machining Modeling Technology for Nickel Superalloy Components in Small Turbine Engines
Third Wave Systems is working with an engine OEM, the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology (CCAT), The University of St. Thomas, and TavaTek to develop, validate, demonstrate and deploy a software-based, machining optimization technology. This technology will be automated to enable current and future United States Air Force (USAF) and Department of Defense (DoD) small engine suppliers to reduce machining costs by 50% or more, all while dramatically improving production yields and throughput. Additionally, this software-based technology will not require new capital equipment, making it highly flexible and available throughout the USAF small engine supply chain. This will allow USAF to rapidly broaden its supply base.
There are currently multiple challenges in machining small turbine engine components, including high material strength, complex part geometries, rapid tool wear, high dimensional accuracy and lack of knowledge on operating conditions and processes suitable for large volume production. Third Wave Systems will work with the OEM to perform technology demonstrations on select small turbine engine components with a cross-section of suppliers in the current supply chain.
In addition to technology demonstration, Third Wave Systems will work with CCAT to validate the technology and identify potential future suppliers, expanding the supply base. Third Wave Systems will also ensure successful delivery of the technology development instructions to program and transition partners through software manuals, training webinars and workshops. Finally, in collaboration with The University of St. Thomas, Third Wave Systems will help develop university coursework to educate and train future machining process engineers on the application of software technologies developed under this program.