The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory awarded an $8 million contract to the University of Connecticut to continue its research on improving aerospace manufacturing processes.

The UConn project began in 2018, when seven faculty researchers began analyzing steps in manufacturing processes to identify how breakdowns in processes can result in defective parts—and how to prevent it.

The contract extends the projects through 2023 and enables the UConn team to expand to 16 faculty members, 21 graduate students, and one postdoctoral researcher.

It will also allow the larger research team to take a more holistic view of manufacturing processes, viewing the entire cycle rather than each individual step.

The goal is to enable researchers to find systemic solutions for larger problems.

Manufacturing Cycle

“The overarching idea here is to actually assess the complete manufacturing cycle of a high-value added aerospace component,” said Pamir Alpay, General Electric professor in advance manufacturing.

“Our main objective is to provide transformative capabilities for manufacturing technologies to the [Air Force], equipment manufacturers, and the supply chain to reduce scrap rates, increase yield and performance, and cut down failures.”

Alpay, a past speaker at CBIA’s annual Connecticut Sustainability Conference, leads the research project and is executive director of the Innovation Partnership Building at UConn Tech Park.

The research team’s work will use smart manufacturing techniques, thermomechanical testing, and characterization in extreme environments to determine how aerospace parts perform under different conditions.

It will also attempt to improve physics-based, data-driven manufacturing methods that are specific to the aerospace industry while focusing on value-added manufacturing, which transforms cheaper raw materials into aircraft parts.

The research team will also work with its Connecticut aerospace industry partners, including Pratt & Whitney and Sikorsky Aircraft, as all companies involved in the aerospace supply chain will benefit from the research.