PLYMOUTH, Ind.—Indiana Technology and Manufacturing Companies (ITAMCO) has been awarded Phase II funding by the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program for the development of a new runway mat for the United States Air Force, ITAMCO said in a release. The SBIR hosts a highly competitive program that encourages USA-based small businesses to engage in federal research / R&D with the potential for commercialization.
The portable runway surface most used today is made with an aluminum plank matting called AM-2. The AM-2 matting has served the United States military well since the Vietnam War, but the materials and technology in the ITAMCO-led research project will offer many benefits over AM-2 matting, according to the release.
As the winner of Phase I funding, ITAMCO was able to compete for Phase II funding. In Phase I, ITAMCO and its project partners established the technical merit, feasibility, and commercial potential of their concept using Phase Transforming Cellular Matrix (PXCM) technology for the runway mat.
In Phase II, the team will move into the prototype and testing stage. The prototype’s ability to restore itself to its original contour and attain full operational capability 30 minutes after compaction and preparation of the final repair site will be tested. The team will also be testing the prototype against the MIL-Spec for the AM-2 runway mat.
The objective of the research has been to develop a robust sheet or roll technology that serves as an alternative to the AM-2 mat for temporary or expeditionary flight operations. A portable airfield mat must be easy to install and store, yet capable of withstanding the stresses of repeated take-offs and landings of aircraft.
The technology team at ITAMCO is working on the project with Professor Pablo Zavattieri in the Lyles School of Civil Engineering at Purdue University. Professor Zavattieri’s contributions to industry and academia focus on the boundary between solid mechanics and materials engineering.
The proposed technology solution comprises an upper surface that mates with a lower surface and contains PXCM geometry to mitigate anticipated loading and shear stresses. In the simplest terms, products made with PXCM geometry have the ability to change from one stable configuration to another stable configuration and back again. According to David Restrepo in a 2016 article published by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers , results have shown that PXCMs can perform similarly to commercial metallic cellular structures used for energy dissipation without relying on plastic deformation.
“The main advantage is that not only can it be used as an energy-absorbing material, but, unlike many other materials designed for this purpose, the PXCMs would be reusable because there is no irreversible deformation,” said Professor Zavattieri, in the release. This means the new runway mat can “heal” itself, resulting in a much longer lifespan than a runway made with AM-2 matting, the release said.
The new runway material is said to provide several other benefits, including light weight. It is targeted to weigh 3.5 pounds per square foot or less. It can be laid by hand over a level surface of the appropriate density. It can support flight operations of 5,000 landing and takeoff cycles over 60 days, and debris on the runway does not hamper performance, the release said.
The prototypes of the mat will be made on ITAMCO’s EOS M290 additive manufacturing printer. EOS is a major technology supplier in the field of industrial 3D printing of metals and polymers.
ITAMCO (https://itamco.com) provides open gearing and precision machining services to heavy-duty industries, including mining, off-highway vehicles, marine, and aviation. It also has a technology team that has released more than 65 applications for mobile devices; designed and markets iBlue, the first industrial Bluetooth transmitter; and developed an award-winning Google Glass application. The company also launched a “Strategic Technology Initiative for Additive Manufacturing” in 2015, and continues to explore alternatives to traditional processes.