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  • Pratt & Whitney Opens Additive Manufacturing Center at UConn
Apr 2013
STORRS, Conn., April 11, 2013 — One of the most advanced additive manufacturing laboratories in the nation has opened in the University of Connecticut’s technology park.

The Pratt & Whitney Additive Manufacturing Innovation Center, a collaboration between UConn and United Technologies Corp. company Pratt & Whitney, will be used to further additive manufacturing R&D and to train a new generation of engineers and designers in the latest advancements in manufacturing technology.

“The new Pratt & Whitney Additive Manufacturing Innovation Center will allow us to push into new frontiers of manufacturing and materials science while training a new generation of engineers in some of the world's most sophisticated manufacturing technology,” said UConn President Susan Herbst.

Additive manufacturing is transforming industry by allowing for new innovations in design, speed and affordability. Its is complementary to traditional “subtractive” manufacturing processes, in which parts are made when raw metal is ground down into a shape engineers need. This process generates large amounts of material waste and requires the assembly of multiple dependent parts to produce a single component.

The center uses advanced powder bed manufacturing technologies and high-power electron beams and lasers to repeatedly melt fine layers of powdered metals like titanium into one solid, integrated piece. This layer-by-layer “additive” process allows for the creation of complex 3-D objects without the constraints of traditional manufacturing methods, reducing production time and providing components with material properties better than cast. It also reduces the amount of raw material used and the need for tooling, as parts can be made on-demand and on-site.

Pratt & Whitney design engineer Louis Porretti uses an electron beam melting machine that is part of the new Pratt & Whitney Additive Manufacturing Innovation Center at the University of Connecticut. The facility is one of the most advanced additive manufacturing labs in the nation. Courtesy of the University of Connecticut.

“Additive manufacturing is complementary to traditional methods by enabling new innovation in design, speed and affordability, and is necessary to build the next generation of jet engines,” said Paul Adams, Pratt & Whitney's CEO. “We are currently using additive manufacturing to build complex components with extreme precision for the flight-proven PurePower commercial jet engine.”

Located on UConn's Depot Campus, the facility features the latest in 3-D manufacturing equipment and rapid prototyping technologies, including two Arcam electron beam melting A2X model machines for the manufacturing of large, complex metal parts at high temperatures.

Pratt & Whitney engineers and UConn faculty and students will use the center's resources to develop advanced fabrication techniques for complex production parts that are in high demand in aerospace, biomedical science and other industries. Over time, it is expected to elevate Connecticut industries' production capabilities, reduce manufacturing times, eliminate material waste and allow for the creation of a new generation of intricate, lightweight and durable custom products.

As a teaching and research center, the facility will assume a pivotal place in UConn's new technology park, scheduled to open in 2015 in Storrs. The university is developing new degree concentrations and a new curriculum associated with additive manufacturing. Workshops and training sessions will also be available for students and engineers interested in the latest technology. Other Connecticut manufacturers will be invited to explore additive manufacturing for their own product design and development.

Pratt & Whitney has invested more than $4.5 million in the center and will invest an additional $3.5 million over the next five years. In 2010, the company established a research Center of Excellence at UConn focusing on fundamental and applied research initiatives that support the design and development of more-efficient gas turbine engines.

The latest facility supports President Obama's Advanced Manufacturing Partnership initiative, launched in 2011 to encourage innovative collaborations between industry, universities and the federal government to increase the nation's global competitiveness by improving existing manufacturing capabilities through the development of advanced materials, components and technologies. (See: Photonics to Drive Investment Boost in Advanced Manufacturing)

“The Additive Manufacturing Innovation Center is the latest example of the structural and strategic changes we're making," said Catherine Smith, Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development. "From Bioscience Connecticut and Jackson Labs; to workforce development through our manufacturing technology programs at our community colleges; to the relaunch of the Small Business Development Center; these important investments in our state's future are reigniting and reinvigorating Connecticut's economy."

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