501 E. Saint Joseph Street • Rapid City, SD 57701-3995
Phone: (605) 394-6082/2554 • Fax: (605) 394-6177
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 8, 2003
Contact: Steve Buchholz, Public Information Manager, 394-6082
AMP Center Investigates Cutting-Edge Technology
The Advanced Materials Processing Center at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology is a unique research laboratory that combines cutting edge equipment and scientific expertise to develop and use 21st Century laser and welding technology. The research completed in the laboratory, called the AMP Center, will assist the U.S. Army and Department of Defense meet the needs of the military while benefiting the local, regional and national economy.
“The Advanced Materials Processing Center has two unique technologies, found together, nowhere else in this country or the world,” Bill Arbegast, center director, said.
AMP Center researchers focus on two emerging technologies – Laser Powder Deposition and Friction Stir Processing. Both technologies represent revolutionary changes in the way materials and parts are designed and built.
The AMP Center resulted from a true partnership between South Dakota Tech, the Army Research Laboratory, and MTS Systems Corporation, along with the support from Sen. Tom Daschle, Sen. Tim Johnson and former Congressman John Thune.
The Laser Powder Deposition technology builds metal parts for virtually any use directly from computer aided drafting files. The equipment sprays powdered aluminum, titanium or other metal onto a work surface while a laser melts the powder along a robotically controlled path into whatever three dimensional form is needed.
Laser Powder Deposition provides what the AMP Center researchers call “on
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demand processing,” the ability to take a design concept to a finished part in virtually minutes. Conventional production methods to create the same part could take months. The technology also allows part designs that would be impossible to fabricate using conventional methods.
A South Dakota Tech Senior Design student team used the laser technology this spring to build titanium engine valves. The valves were designed to produce more horsepower with a lighter-weight part than is commonly used in today’s engines. The laser builds each valve in less than 15 minutes. The students then coated each valve with an alloy to prevent valve wear and give each part a longer life.
Laser Powder Deposition technology holds the potential for tremendous advances in both military and industrial technology. It already is used to repair turbine engine components for the Army’s M1 Main Battle Tank. Researchers, including the AMP Center team, are investigating other opportunities.
“NASA is looking at the use of laser powder deposition for the long-term interplanetary voyages as a method to repair components that might fail, say, on a trip from here to Mars,” Arbegast said. “It's easier to carry a CAD file and some powder and rebuild a replacement part than it is to carry a whole machine shop into orbit.”
Friction Stir Processing joins metal pieces and parts together in full penetration joints in a single pass without melting them. Friction Stir Processing produces stronger welds more quickly than conventional welding methods. Potential applications of the technology include airplanes with no rivets.
The process uses a spinning “pin tool” to produce frictional heat in a material. The material softens at a temperature below its melting point. The pin tool then mixes and stirs together the now fluid-like material into a single piece. The resulting joint is approximately twice as strong as conventional electric arc and fusion welds. Since the metals are never melted, Friction Stir Processing virtually eliminates the defects associated with conventional welding methods.
There are no other friction-stir welders in the world that can perform the size and types of welds as Tech’s equipment. It can weld thick, complex curvature parts with a variety of joint configurations in aluminum, titanium and steel, capabilities that make it unique and in demand.
Friction Stir Processing has replaced the way NASA and Lockheed Martin build the external tank for the space shuttle. Boeing uses Friction Stir Processing on
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its Delta 2 and Delta 4 launch vehicles that carry satellites and other payloads into orbit. Eclipse Aviation was the first commercial aircraft builder to use Friction Stir Processing for joining fuselage and wing sections, replacing most of the thousands of rivets used in traditional aircraft manufacturing.
Both the Friction Stir Processing and the Laser Powder Deposition technologies are environmentally friendly. The waste of material amounts to a small fraction compared with the waste from conventional manufacturing methods. Neither process uses hazardous chemicals or gasses. As a result, fumes and emissions are minimized.
Besides conducting research to benefit the U.S. Army, Department of Defense, and local business, the AMP Center will help South Dakota Tech students in their pursuit of education. Graduate and undergraduate students are involved in every aspect of research and development at the AMP Center.
“As the students learn about the technology, they will take that along with them to their engineering jobs and say, ‘I can apply this technology because it exists and I know how to apply it,’” Dr. Jim Sears, AMP senior research scientist, said. “That is how the university can play a key role in applying advanced technology.”
The AMP Center also presents an opportunity for creating economic development in South Dakota as researchers develop production applications for these technologies. That’s already happened in Rapid City.
���Locally, I think there is a lot of potential for utilization and expansion of these technologies,” Arbegast said. “ We currently are working with RPM & Associates in Rapid City to implement the laser powder deposition technology as a repair technique for Army ground hardware and airborne hardware. Rapid City has an opportunity to grow new manufacturing and production opportunities for the Rapid City area.
“I think the potential of the AMP Center is limited only to our own vision.”
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Devereaux Library. South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.