Advanced Technologies for Discrete-Parts Manufacturing

Period of Performance: 09/14/2009 - 03/13/2011


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm, Inc.
Suite 1013155 Research Blvd.
Kettering, OH 45420
Principal Investigator


Under a prior Air Force SBIR program, and its technology division, FOPAT, developed an innovative material and process to manufacture patterns for the investment casting industry. Defying thousands of years of traditional investment casting practices, FOPAT s new process utilizes an advanced and proprietary foam material instead of wax. While FOPAT s product is a direct replacement for wax patterns, it is extremely cost competitive. The benefits of using FOPAT s foam technology include: scrap reduction, raw material savings, productivity improvements, energy savings, and environmental benefits. FOPAT matches the performance of wax patterns and overcomes the disadvantages of traditional wax patterns. FOPAT promises longer storage lives of patterns, allows for much easier shipment of patterns and easier handling of patterns in the casting process, and, most importantly, allows for the production of patterns with thin and complex sections. The Air Force SBIR project is currently being extended to produce JSF engine components using the FOPAT material and process. An initial cost benefit analysis for the Air Force revealed that the total cost of investment castings used in military engines is well over $0.5B, and improving casting costs by approximately 16% which is very possible with the proposed technology given potential material cost reduction of 30% and first time yield improvements as detailed in the proposal, this could result in a potential cost savings of over $ 75M annually for just the aircraft engine manufacturers. Additional cost savings for other weapon systems and applications would be assessed as part of cost-benefit analysis task in this project. This DLA project involves using quick, low-cost tooling methods for FOPAT pattern production. This Phase II proposal has been prepared to fully exploit the technical and commercial potential demonstrated during the DLA Phase I project. While not all tasks have been completed on the Phase I project, has demonstrated the potential of the technology and its benefits to DLA and is pleased to submit a Phase II proposal to address some remaining technical and commercial challenges. In particular, this proposal addresses key technical hurdles for scaling up production - and assembles a team of resources, including commercial partners, to fully commercialize and transition FOPAT technology into the military supply chain and private industry. The proposed project meets the goals of the DLA by enhancing process efficiency, reducing cost, increasing productivity, while improving product performance and is fully supported by an experienced team and a long list of collaborators and commercial partners, including: the US Army (ARDEC/Benet Labs), Steels Founders Society of America, Nextec, Ransom & Randolph (Dentsply), and military supplier LT Enterprises, and foundries EPS, MCM, and BIMAC. intends to work through its technology division FOPAT to manufacture and supply FOPAT patterns to foundries. FOPAT patterns will be shipped to several capable investment casting foundries that have open capacity and short lead-times, enabling DLA to dramatically reduce the cost and time currently required to obtain discrete cast parts. There will be no more lost tools or foundries holding the buyer hostage because they have the only tool and can demand almost whatever price they want. This will open up for more competition among foundries reducing the cost and lead-time for DLA parts. buyCASTINGS and SFSA will use its network of foundries and suppliers to conduct foundry trials and industry evaluations to ensure that the proposed technology is scaled up and commercialized in Phase II and meets DLA s cost reduction goals. In addition, this project will help the US casting industry take significant step towards its 2020 goal of improved metal casting processes in three interrelated areas: improved product performance, reduced production costs, and reduced scrap rates.