Katherine Brown, NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
April Phillips, NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia
Michael Tullier, APR, Tuskegee University Office of Communications, Public Relations and Marketing
NASA has announced that Tuskegee University is one of three universities to be awarded grants through its Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP). Part of NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement — and in partnership with the agency’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate — the grant-funded project will provide students at Tuskegee with the education and experience needed to help address manufacturing needs in the U.S. aerospace sector.
The MUREP Aerospace High-Volume Manufacturing and Supply Chain Management Cooperative will provide almost $1.5 million to fund curriculum-based learning, research, training, internships, and apprenticeships at Tuskegee and two other institutions to meet the growing demand for expertise and techniques in high-volume aerospace manufacturing.
Through its collaboration with NASA and corporate partner Bell Helicopter, Tuskegee researchers will identify critical helicopter parts and develop a complete business case for the use of 3D printing in the manufacturing of these parts. The proposed work plan also includes a critical review of the current status of aerospace high-volume manufacturing and supply chain, with a focus on Alabama’s aerospace industry.
“In recent years, the U.S. aerospace industry has struggled to meet the growing global demand for aircraft and parts, resulting in all-time-high order backlogs, unsustainable spare parts inventories, and lost opportunities for growth,” explained Dr. Firas Akasheh, an associate professor of mechanical engineering who will lead the project as its principal investigator.
“3D printing offers an incredible advantage to current manufacturing shortfalls that risk the nation’s aerospace industry maintaining its competitive edge and meeting its strategic requirements,” Akasheh continued.
Through the project, entitled “Impact of Additive Manufacturing on Aerospace High-Volume Manufacturing and Supply Chain Management: Workforce Alignment through Research and Training,” faculty researchers and students at Tuskegee will collaborate with the Bell Helicopter team. Together, they will analyze current manufacturing and supply chain practices and develop executable 3D manufacturing plans for both helicopter and drone applications. In the drone track, university researchers will incorporate 3D printing into the design, build and test phases to improve the functionality and performance of these aircraft. The work will be conducted in increments to allow for continuous assessment of the quality performance of 3D-printed parts.
Akasheh will lead a multidisciplinary research team that includes co-principal investigators Dr. Vascar Harris, a professor of aerospace science engineering; Dr. Mohammad Hossain, an associate professor of mechanical engineering; and Dr. Mandoye Ndoye, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering.
During the next two years, the project will provide students with innovative opportunities to learn about designing and building aerospace parts using high-volume manufacturing practices, as well as supply chain management of those parts. It also will help the College of Engineering expand its existing additive manufacturing facilities and capabilities for the benefit of future academic and research efforts.
For more than a decade, MUREP investments have enhanced the academic, research and technological capabilities of minority-serving institutions through multiyear grants. These institutions recruit and retain underrepresented and underserved students — including women, girls, veterans and persons with disabilities — into STEM fields.
Other minority-serving institutions funded through this NASA cooperative include the University of Texas at El Paso and Virginia State University.
For more information about MUREP, visit https://go.nasa.gov/2M6qot0.
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