Dredging & Marine Construction

Corps Awards Infrastructure Grant To Company To Study 3D Printing For Parts

Power management company Eaton, in partnership with the University of Toledo, announced recently that it has been awarded the “Intelligent and Resilient Infrastructure” grant from the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC).

Through this program, Eaton and the University of Toledo will evaluate the use of “large format additive manufacturing machines and advanced materials” or three-dimensional printing capable of printing high-strength parts to replace damaged Corps of Engineers components faster. 

In three-dimensional printing, also called additive manufacturing, special machines manufacture complex parts by laying down courses of materials through nozzles in a back-and-forth motion similar to printing, but with layers of materials like plastic or metals building up to form them in three dimensions. It has been used for years to make cheap plastic parts, but increasingly sophisticated 3D printing techniques using metals have been made possible by special imaging software that directs the nozzles to precise patterns. Some have called 3D printing another revolution in manufacturing. 

The Corps has long faced an issue of not having replacement parts for some of its older structures. In many cases the original manufacturers or contractors are out of business, and original documents may not be available. 

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Leveraging Eaton’s successful growth in additive manufacturing and multifunctional composites materials, the program will focus on:

• large format metal additive manufacturing;

• additive manufacturing of molds using large format polymer printing​ and conducting polymers; and

• embedded sensing for health monitoring and predictive maintenance.

In addition, the University of Toledo will leverage its Polymer Institute; Center for Materials and Sensor Characterization; Failure, Fracture and Fatigue Laboratory; and Micro/Nano-Mechanics Laboratory.

“The technology and the data generated under this program will be the building blocks of future repair and replacement strategies that combine material databases, manufacturing simulations and field data,” said Bryan Farrens, senior manager, government programs, Eaton.

U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), a key supporter for the program, said, “The federal grant from the U.S. Army demonstrates how critical northern Ohio innovation and expertise is in advancing next-generation technologies for the resilience of American infrastructure.” 

“As the Corps and the nation tackle aging infrastructure, the new materials, manufacturing processes and health monitoring technologies developed under this effort will support modernization of our infrastructure for improved reliability and and resilience,” said Dr. Robert D. Moser, ERDC senior scientific technical manager.

Eaton opened its Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence in Southfield, Mich., in 2016. Since then, it has worked with several commercial and defense customers to deliver cutting-edge manufacturing technologies in 3D printing for both metal and non-metal applications.

ERDC, a research organization with approximately 2,100 employees, is headquartered in Vicksburg, Miss. It is composed of seven laboratories: the Coastal and Hydraulics, Environmental, Geotechnical and Structures and Information Laboratories are located in Vicksburg. The remaining sites include the Construction Engineering Research Laboratory in Champaign, Ill., Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory in Hanover, N.H., and the Geospatial Research Laboratory in Alexandria, Va.