A $1 million SBIR Phase II grant from the U.S. Air Force will help fast-track the development of a new innovative 3D-printed runway mat.
Pablo Zavattieri, the Jerry M. and Lynda T. Engelhardt Professor in civil engineering at Purdue University, is working with Indiana Technology and Manufacturing Companies (ITAMCO) to develop the new runway mat. The team uses metal 3D printing methods for its technology.
“The objective of the research is to develop a robust sheet or roll technology that serves as an alternative to the AM-2 mat for temporary or expeditionary flight operations,” Zavattieri said. “AM-2 matting has served the U.S. 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.”
The proposed matting solution is comprised of an upper surface that mates with a lower surface and contains a type of architectured material called Phase Transforming Cellular Material (PXCM) geometry to mitigate anticipated loading and shear stresses.
Zavattieri said a portable and lightweight airfield mat must be easy to install and store, yet capable of withstanding the stresses of repeated take-offs and landings of aircraft.
“Products made with PXCM geometry have the ability to change from one stable configuration to another stable or metastable configuration and back again,” Zavattieri said. “This means the new runway mat could potentially heal itself, resulting in a much longer lifespan than a runway made with AM-2 matting. Another benefit is that debris on the runway will not hamper the runway’s performance with our technology.”
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.