FOR­MER GE­OR­GIA GRO­CERY STORE TRANS­FORMED INTO AIR FORCE LAB

Techlife News - - Summary -

A for­mer gro­cery store in Mid­dle Ge­or­gia is now serv­ing high-tech air­craft man­u­fac­tur­ing for the mil­i­tary.

The in­side of the brick build­ing — a for­mer Publix store in Warner Robins — is full of gleam­ing new fu­tur­is­tic ma­chin­ery.

The Air Force Ad­vanced Tech­nol­ogy and Train­ing Cen­ter is rem­i­nis­cent of the lab James Bond walks through to pick up his lat­est spy gad­gets.

The fa­cil­ity is a satel­lite op­er­a­tion of Robins

Air Force Base. It of­fi­cially opened Oct. 24, the Ma­con news­pa­per re­ported.

The cen­ter now em­ploys about 30 peo­ple and may even­tu­ally em­ploy about 100. The lab is the se­cond like it in the Air Force. The first is con­nected with Wright-Pat­ter­son Air Force Base in Day­ton, Ohio.

The Ge­or­gia fa­cil­ity in­volves 3-D print­ing, also called ad­di­tive man­u­fac­tur­ing, as a key to keep­ing the ag­ing fleet fly­ing. Pre­vi­ously 3-D print­ing had been thought of pri­mar­ily as some­thing to make pro­to­types, but now the Air Force is look­ing at us­ing it to rou­tinely make parts to be used in planes, the news­pa­per re­ported.

The tra­di­tional method of fab­ri­cat­ing a part from scratch in­volved es­sen­tially carv­ing it out of a piece of metal, or sub­trac­tive man­u­fac­tur­ing, Maj. Ben St­ef­fens said. That re­quired spe­cial tool­ing to make the spe­cific part, so the setup alone could be time-con­sum­ing and ex­pen­sive.

In ad­di­tive man­u­fac­tur­ing, a ma­chine mea­sures the part, cre­ates a dig­i­tal model, then an ad­di­tive man­u­fac­tur­ing ma­chine slowly builds it layer by layer, the Ma­con news­pa­per re­ported. It’s much cheaper and faster than the tra­di­tional method, said St­ef­fens, who works in the Air Force Cor­ro­sion Pre­ven­tion and Con­trol Of­fice at Robins Air Force Base and is now in­volved in get­ting the Ad­vanced Tech­nol­ogy and Train­ing Cen­ter in full op­er­a­tion.

The new cen­ter is cru­cial to keep­ing old air­craft fly­ing when parts for it are no longer avail­able, St­ef­fens said.

“Much of the work that has been done on the base has been done in the same method for years and years,” he said. “This equip­ment, this tech­nol­ogy, this ma­te­rial that we are deal­ing with here is cut­ting edge and will bring us to the next level as far as keep­ing our sched­ule down, keep­ing our cost low.”

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