Dr. Robert Tryon, Co-Founder & CTO
Aircrafts are designed to remain operational for a protracted duration being big-ticket investments. As a result, the commercial aviation industry is saddled with high maintenance, repair and overhaul costs to keep the fleets flying. However, over time, components often become unavailable, either due to the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) is no longer in business or because of the OEM’s high price. In such scenarios, companies are turning to the highly popular additive manufacturing (AM) process. However, recreating the original component using the AM process is challenging because determining the part’s fatigue aspect is exceedingly complicated. Traditional qualification approaches require businesses to go through the time-consuming cycle of building, testing, and analyzing, because it is an iterative process that requires validation at each phase to certify a part can withstand the expected fatigue loading.
This is where Tennessee-based VEXTEC makes a difference in making better products and resolving in-service fatigue durability issues. Its proprietary software, VPS-MICRO®, helps expedite the extensive AM certification process by simulating the fatigue quantification testing program before full testing resources are committed. By only testing products that have a high probability of success, the certification process is cost-effective and less time-consuming.
“Our computational software helps in rapid certification of metal additive parts, especially when it comes to certifying them for fatigue durability,” says Robert Tryon, CTO of VEXTEC.
VPS-MICRO® is an advanced Integrated Computational Materials Engineering (ICME) based software that precisely accounts for a part’s fatigue response to different usage scenarios. VPS-MICRO® is a digital twin of the material, right down to its microstructure. The software’s capability to capture the randomness of material processing, manufacturing, and in-service situations, probabilistically is what sets it apart. The software’s predictions can assist in identifying the modifications required to meet the requirements at an early stage, allowing for more cost-effective improvements to AM processes and parts.
The company also assesses the reliability of the old component (original material) and compares it with that of the new design (with the additive material) to ensure that the new design can withstand the same level of loading. Clients are encouraged to provide photos or even real broken components, as looking at the fractured surface helps understand how the failure occurred and thereby enabling changes to prevent future failures. Clients can use the software as a service and subscribe annually to optimize their product design and manufacturing processes to achieve product durability and longevity while saving product development time and cost.
To help engineering professionals get more familiar with the capabilities of the software, VEXTEC has developed a VPS-MICRO® training program. With the help of the software, users can work on practical projects while being guided by the company through the entire process of fatigue test simulation, thanks to the specially curated, hands-on training. “In addition to installing the software, we are imparting the knowledge that allows the customer to be a user themselves,” says Tryon
Recognizing the huge potential of AM, the aviation industry has already adopted this technology and is expected to do considerably more in the future. On that note, VEXTEC is currently working on including enhanced features into VPS-MICRO® such as the prediction of fatigue of metal additive components with as-printed surface conditions. Along with the aviation sector, the company has worked in the medical devices, automotive and machinery sectors, where additive manufacturing is gaining ground. “As a company, we are very versatile and active in areas where additive manufacturing can be an attractive option. We’ll be happy to engage in those sectors as well,” concludes Tryon.