U.S. Army Acquires Service-Wide License of SNC TRAX Software to Enable Network Interoperability

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) was awarded a contract by the U.S. Army for an unlimited distribution of the SNC Tactical Radio Application eXtension (TRAX) software to deliver effective interoperability across disparate communications systems, networks and domains.

As a Joint Certified Command & Control (C2) Gateway, the company says SNC TRAX is a “potential game changer” in solving the longstanding interoperability challenges stemming from incompatible and disparate message protocols across the battlefield. With SNC TRAX inserted into the U.S. Army architecture, a true air-to-ground Common Operational Picture (COP) will be accessible, allowing virtually any platform to share information, issue tasking and provide enhanced situational awareness in real time for the next Great Power Competition.

“Secure communication across systems, networks and domains is essential to battlespace awareness,” said Tim Owings, executive vice president of SNC’s Mission Solutions and Technologies business area. “Listening to our customers, SNC has created and invested in SNC TRAX as an all-domain solution with the most system, sensor and radar integrations. SNC TRAX delivers the interoperability our customers need to achieve full battlespace awareness and accomplish the mission.”

SNC TRAX overcomes these challenges by leveraging military and commercial open-based standards to connect platforms, ground units and operations centers across domains. Among the features and benefits SNC TRAX will provide:

  • Utilizes a Common Data Engine allowing use on various operating systems including Windows, Linux and Android;
  • Allows sharing of digital situational awareness data, C2 information, weapon and battlefield sensor information and video;
  • Facilitates the continuous and rapid integration and fielding of new sensors, systems, networks, weapons and other technologies across the Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) architecture;
  • Serves as a common data fabric layer through its non-proprietary open standard based API/ICD and Open Mission Network Interface GOTS Data Protocol, simplifying the insertion of new technology into existing U.S. Army architectures/Programs of Record;
  • Provides users with an integrated multi-domain (air, ground, sea and space) tool that supports the use of coded waveforms for two-way data transmissions between airborne platforms, unmanned aerial vehicles, ground units, space sensors and tactical headquarters using multiple waveforms, message formats and data protocols.

SNC TRAX has been proven in operational environments in the hands of tactical operators, operations center personnel, aircrews and ground units worldwide. It has been operationally fielded since 2012 and is currently in use the by the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Coast Guard and coalition partners.

TNO and Celestia STS Sign Agreement to Commercialize Optical Modem

The availability of optical modem technology (optical digital converter aka ODC) for the market has taken a major step forwards with the signing of an agreement between TNO, the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research, and Celestia STS for an IP licence agreement to commercialize Optical Modems.

The commercialization of optical modem technology will contribute greatly to enabling secure high speed broadband connectivity and increase communication efficiency on a large scale, the companies say. This will address the growing demand for data in society as well as ensure the exchange of enormous amounts of data needed for space missions.  

Optical Modem Technology
The optical modem provides reception and processing functionality of digital bitstreams output by optical detectors. It is capable of receiving data rates of up to 10Gbps.The optical modem is ideal for low-latency, high throughput optical communication in ground stations and experimental set-ups. The modem provides electrical, data extraction, protocol/data handling, error correction and status annotation functions. The recovered data is offloaded from the modem using a dedicated 10Gbit TCP/IP streaming interface to a commercial server platform for data storage and further processing. 

Long-term cooperation
The agreement comes after three years of collaboration between TNO and Noordwijk-based Celestia STS, specialists in ground-based solutions for satellite testing, communications and data processing. The ambitious optical modem project was initiated in September 2018, when Celestia STS joined a TNO-led consortium to design, build and test a gigabit-class optical ground station capable of offering broadband speeds of up to 10Gbps. Celestia used its extensive track record in designing and building state-of-the-art EGSE (Electrical Ground Support Equipment) and modem solutions to develop an Optical Digital Converter for use in free-space optical terminals and optical ground stations as well as in experimental set-ups for optical communication.

It also partnered with TNO R&D teams to develop the technology to produce an Optical Modem based on an O3K demodulation scheme, with firmware based processing, high speed digital signal input and data rates of up to 10Gbps.

This will now move forward to full production and commercialisation by Celestia STS, using the jointly developed technology, offering a powerful solution for the telecoms market, ground station operators looking to build new optical ground stations and companies developing ambitious new business models based on optical technologies.

Partners in the agreement

“I’m very glad we can continue our trusted relationship with Celestia STS and bring Optical Modem technology to the market together. This is an important step in our mission to support Dutch industry in taking a strong position in the growing market for free space optical communication equipment,” says Erik Fritz, program manager at TNO.

“It has been fantastic to have been involved in such a successful collaboration with TNO and to be in a position where we will shortly see the fruits of the ground-breaking work we have been doing with them,” says Dougie Johnman, COO of Celestia STS. “Our plans to commercialize the technology, build and launch a robust optical modem offering are very well advanced and it will be soon that we see this product reach the market. This plays to our strengths in every way; we have extensive know-how and production capability that leave us ideally placed to build a commercially viable product and be one of the first movers in the market in a technology that offers a very big step forwards for so many players” he says.

Hypersonic Technology Startup Velontra Taps Retired U.S. General as its Inaugural President

Retired Major General Craig Whelden has been named the inaugural president of Velontra, a startup with the mind power to accelerate America’s development of hypersonic technology.

His military career began with the U.S. Army where he once held the distinction as the youngest general in the Army. Combined with an additional nine years as a member of the Senior Executive Services (SES) with the U.S. Marine Corps he has led thousands of soldiers, sailors, marines and civilians in a storied 40-year military career.

“General Whelden is a strategic thinker who is able to parlay his four decades of significant leadership and service into further assisting our nation in developing aeronautical and military power,” says Velontra CEO Robert Keane. “He has the insights, relationships, and military knowledge to enable Velontra to thrive in a race against time as China and Russia rev up their development of unmanned hypersonic technology.”

General Whelden is the author of, “Leadership: The Art of Inspiring People to Be Their Best.” The book rose to #1 on Amazon’s International Best-Seller List and has won four national book awards. He is also a global Fortune 500 speaker.

“I was drawn to Velontra because this talented group possesses proven scientific knowledge and an extraordinary talent for taking start ups toward award-winning heights,” said Whelden. “I have no doubt that this group can produce what our nation needs quicker, more efficiently and more cost effectively than many larger firms. As the clock ticks, I want to be associated with those who know how to use their past experience in the military and in science to make things happen for the benefit of our great nation. There is no reason why we can’t be a leader in hypersonic technology – with both military and commercial application.”

Whelden joins CEO Rob Keane, a 10-year Force Recon Marine awarded for valor in combat who has worked as an aerospace engineer, and CRO Zachary Green, a former Marine and multiple award-winning entrepreneur.

Rounding out the leadership team are chief technology officer Joel Darin, one of the nation’s authorities on jet engine afterburners, and Mark Longenecker, an acclaimed Harvard-educated attorney focused on mergers, acquisitions and startups who serves as Velontra’s chief legal officer.

Velontra’s goal is to regain America’s military and aerospace dominance. While U.S. airlines have been in the news for ordering planes that travel up to twice the speed of sound, hypersonic speed is at least Mach 5 or five times the speed of sound. 

The company currently has offices in Ohio and South Carolina.

Ontario Aerospace Council Continues Successful COAST Training Program

The Ontario Aerospace Council announced results from the pilot year for its Competencies Online Advancement Skills & Training (COAST) program, as well as plans for year two. Developed in response to COVID-19 to engage, retain and upskill aerospace industry employees, as well as facilitate post-pandemic recovery, COAST is funded in part by the Province of Ontario through its Skills Catalyst Fund under the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development. For the pilot year that concluded in March 2021, OAC reported that 173 trainees representing 11 aerospace companies throughout all levels of the supply chain occupied 310 seats in eight courses selected by industry.

“OAC leadership and its board of directors responded quickly to pandemic-related employment challenges, creating COAST so our member companies could recognize employees by offering training valued for both its content and recognition by managers,” said Moira Harvey, OAC’s executive director. “Courses were selected via an industry survey and a ten-member advisory committee that reflected our diverse base. In its first year, COAST enhanced industry talent and expanded networks, despite a lack of in-person meetings.”

Three “Business of Aerospace” customized courses were titled “Diversity and Bias: Awareness and Action for Aerospace Leaders,” “Ontario Aerospace – Our Heritage, Our Sector and Future Proofing Your Career,” and “Blue Skies Ahead – Challenges and Opportunities for Ontario Aerospace.” These were complemented by diverse industry panel discussions that facilitated connections across companies. Five broader offerings addressed personal/business and relational competencies: “Focus & Achievement,” Critical Thinking & Problem Solving,” “Conflict Management,” “Change Management,” and “Team Building.”

“Our employees appreciated the breadth and depth that the COAST programs offered,” said Peter Voss, president and CEO of Shimco, as well as an OAC board member and COAST industry advisory committee member. “Every participant was able to take away several key learning concepts and apply them to real-life situations.”

COAST is based on a self-improvement mindset called Beta-You. Trainees were presented with the notion that they should adopt a more dedicated approach to learning, one that recognizes the competitive and workplace changes in aerospace that necessitate intentional and continuous learning. These programs focus on social, cognitive and digital competencies required for employee success in this sector. In addition to specific programming, Beta-You functionality will be developed to support OAC members and their employees to manage, track and receive industry-wide recognition through certification for their developmental achievements.

“The COAST program has allowed us to continue the support of our employee’s Personal Development Plans (PDPs) in areas critical to the success of our organization,” stated Robert Mobilio, vice president for engineering and quality at De Havilland Aircraft of Canada. “The soft skill type courses, combined with the customized Business of Aerospace curriculum, and complemented by our internal technical development programs has resulted in a robust training base for our teams. We look forward to additional opportunities to continue developing our relationship with the COAST program and further expanding on the courses available to our employees.”

In year two of COAST, the OAC will expand on the eight courses above with five “Non-technical Plus” soft-skills programs: “Innovation,” “Collaboration,” “Critical and Analytical Thinking,” “21st Century Management” and “Resilience @ Work.” It will also offer a business and professional writing class called “It’s Not What You Say, it’s How You Say It,” plus train-the-trainer sessions, a mentorship program and workforce communities to promote best practices. Funded in March 2021 through the Skills Development Fund under the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development, this second year of COAST runs from June 2021 through March 2022.

City of Hamburg, LHT and the DLR Focus on Hydrogen

The aerospace industry in Hamburg is preparing for flying with hydrogen. Therefore, the starting signal has now sounded for the set-up of a new development platform. Over the next two years and with funds provided by the city of Hamburg, Lufthansa Technik together with the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the Center for Applied Aeronautical Research (ZAL) and Hamburg Airport will design and test extensive maintenance and ground processes in handling hydrogen technology. For this purpose, an aircraft of the Airbus A320 family will be converted into a stationary laboratory at Lufthansa Technik’s base in Hamburg.

Liquid hydrogen (LH2) is increasingly being more concretely envisaged in the development departments of large aircraft manufacturers as a sustainably producible fuel for future generations of commercial aircraft. In order to investigate the effects of the use of LH2 on maintenance and ground processes at an early stage, Lufthansa Technik, DLR, ZAL and Hamburg Airport are now pooling their extensive practical and scientific expertise. The aim is to jointly develop a pioneering demonstrator, and to operate it from 2022.

As the world’s third largest aviation location, the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg is funding the research project with the largest single item in its special program to mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the aviation industry.

“Hamburg is not just one of the three largest aviation clusters in the world, last year the city also developed the clear vision of becoming a major hydrogen metropolis,” explained Michael Westhagemann, Senator for Economics and Innovation of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg. “I therefore see it as both a logical and gratifying step to combine these two core competences of Hamburg. The port, the energy sector, industry and the entire mobility sector are involved and are preparing for this groundbreaking technology. With this project, we are now also making an essential contribution to the transformation of aviation into a climate-neutral mobility solution of the future. The clear goal is to build up a hydrogen economy in Hamburg that will occupy a leading position internationally.”   

In the first phase of the project, by the end of 2021 the partners aim to identify the most urgent fields of development for closer scientific examination and, on this basis, to elaborate the concept for subsequent practical testing. The practical implementation of the concept will start at the beginning of 2022 and will involve the modification of a decommissioned Airbus A320 aircraft. It will be equipped with an LH2 infrastructure to be used as a fully functional field laboratory at Lufthansa Technik’s base in Hamburg. In parallel, a virtual environment is being created at DLR that will be used to achieve digital and highly accurate mapping of the defined development fields. The new development platform is to provide inspiration for the design process of the next generation of aircraft by means of parameterized and highly accurate virtual models.

Against this background, Lufthansa Technik will primarily contribute its great operational expertise in the maintenance and modification of commercial aircraft, and can also incorporate the customer perspective through its close contact with airlines around the world. DLR will add its long-standing and cross-sector experience with hydrogen, and focus on the development of the virtual environment. ZAL will also participate with its extensive know-how in the field of fuel cell technology and its digital process mapping. As an associated project partner, Hamburg Airport will primarily contribute its experience from the operator’s perspective, for example in defining requirements for the ground handling process of future LH2-powered aircraft.

“There is no alternative to the transformation of our industry towards climate-neutral flying. With this project, we want to tackle this enormous technological challenge at an early stage – for the entire MRO industry as well as for us. In this way, we are actively securing the future, because we are building up know-how today for the maintenance and ground processes of the day after tomorrow,” explained Dr. Johannes Bussmann, Chief Executive Officer of Lufthansa Technik AG. “I am therefore pleased that we have succeeded in joining forces with strong partners in this project. And I am very grateful for the foresight of the city of Hamburg and its generous funding for this project.”

“The aircraft of the future are lighter, more efficient and fly with alternative propulsion concepts. Hydrogen will play an important role in this. We need to learn – promptly and in detail – the requirements on aircraft and maintenance of real-world operation with hydrogen on the ground,” said Dr. Markus Fischer, DLR Deputy Board Member Aeronautics. “In the project, we are using this data and experience to develop digital models for ground processes. These digital process twins can then be used directly in the design of future-oriented and yet practicable aircraft configurations.”

 “The development of a field laboratory and a digital twin are important components of Hamburg’s Green Aviation Technology Roadmap. They were developed together with the members of the Hamburg Aviation Cluster last year to strengthen Hamburg’s competence in research and development in a European context,” said Roland Gerhards, Chief Executive Officer of ZAL GmbH. “We thank the city of Hamburg for its support in now jointly implementing this location strategy for the development of future LH2-powered aircraft.”

Michael Eggenschwiler, CEO of Hamburg Airport, said, “Climate-friendly flying with hydrogen technology is only possible if the infrastructure on the ground also fits perfectly. Close coordination is required here, and we as an airport are pleased to be able to contribute our know-how to this important project – from questions of storage and distribution to the refueling process on the apron. At the airport, we also rely on hydrogen as the technology of the future for our ground transport. This project offers us the chance to identify and make the best possible use of synergy effects between gaseous hydrogen, such as that used for refueling our baggage tractors, and liquid hydrogen for aircraft refueling.”

JetBlue Promotes Burr to President, JetBlue Technology Ventures

JetBlue announced that Amy Burr has been named president of the company’s wholly owned venture capital subsidiary, JetBlue Technology Ventures (JTV).

Burr has been with JetBlue since 2018 as JTV’s managing director of operations and partnerships, where she built an ecosystem of partners and deployment opportunities for the many technologies of JTV’s portfolio companies.

As head of JTV, Burr will shape the strategic venture investment direction of JetBlue and facilitate integration of successful startup programs into the airline’s overall corporate innovation initiatives. She will report to Brandon Nelson, JetBlue’s general counsel and corporate secretary, who also serves as oversight officer of JTV. Nelson was involved with the creation of JTV in 2016 and has served on the subsidiary’s investment committee as chair for the past several years.

“Amy has done a phenomenal job leading the JTV team over the past several months, and we’re looking forward to seeing her bring her innovation experience to life as part of JetBlue’s leadership team,” said Nelson.

Burr has been a leader in creating, sourcing and implementing innovative technology in the travel space for the last 21 years. As an original founder of Virgin America in 2004, she worked in areas including strategy, corporate program leadership and commercial and revenue development. She ended her time with the company as the leader of the merger integration with Alaska Airlines.

Burr succeeds Bonny Simi, JTV’s founder and president from 2016-2020. Simi served JetBlue for 18 years in a variety of roles, including as a pilot, director, customer service and vice president, talent. She joined JTV portfolio company Joby Aviation in December 2020 as head of people and operations, and remains an advisor to the JTV team.

“Amy and I have been working very closely in preparation for this transition, and I am proud to see her officially step into this role. She is well-positioned to lead the team during its next phase, and I am excited to continue to support her successes as an advisor,” said Simi.

ClarinoxBlue Support for Embedded Linux ELinOS

SYSGO and Clarinox have joined forces and made the ClarinoxBlue Bluetooth Classic and Low Energy stack available for SYSGO’s embedded Linux distribution ELinOS. This allows embedded application developers to easily integrate Bluetooth communication into their embedded systems.

The application areas that this collaboration enables are many and varied. There are use cases for industrial applications such as trouble-free ethernet communication between control devices and moving machines and hard to wire sensors with distances up to 100 meters and more. One major application in this area is the real-time monitoring of harmful vibration for failure prevention.

The supported Bluetooth Classic SPP and PAN profiles, Bluetooth Low Energy GATT profiles are suitable for carrying industrial protocols over wireless such as Modbus, Profinet RT and Profisafe. Other uses cases are also found in the medical devices field as well as transport, railway and automotive industries. The combined offering meets a full spectrum of connectivity needs from low-energy consuming data transfer (e.g., truck to trailer Bluetooth communication between sensors) to high-end applications including audio connectivity such as in In-Vehicle-Infotainment systems (IVI).

ClarinoxBlue is a Bluetooth stack specifically designed for embedded applications. It was created to remove complexity from Bluetooth integration, thus reducing time to market as well as the technical risk. It also increases flexibility and eases debugging. ClarinoxBlue supports simultaneous multiple profiles and multiple local Bluetooth devices, allowing an application to interact with several local Bluetooth devices simultaneously increasing flexibility for designers. A unique advantage of the Clarinox products is the availability of ClariFi debugging tool. Debugging of embedded systems can be very time-consuming and pose technical and timeline risk. The built-in protocol analyzer support and threading, memory usage, and memory leak analysis tools of ClariFi significantly eases debugging and helps developments complete faster. 

ELinOS is SYSGO’s industrial-grade Linux distribution for embedded systems which includes real-time extensions and long-term support. It can be used stand-alone or in a partition of SYSGO’s hypervisor-based real-time operating system PikeOS. Both, SYSGO and Clarinox, offer long-term support (10 years and more) for their products.

Clarinox offers support for Bluetooth, Bluetooth Low Energy and WiFi applications. The SYSGO package for ClarinoxBlue integration includes all header files and libraries as well as an example application for CODEO, SYSGO’s comprehensive development platform.

“We are happy to work with Clarinox to provide our customers an easy and flexible way to include Bluetooth into their projects”, said Franz Walkembach, VP Marketing & Alliances at SYSGO. “As digitalization requires ever more connectivity options across all industries, among others, avionics, space, automotive, medical and more, we are pleased to offer an easier and more sustainable way of integrating Bluetooth technology.”

“With the ELinOS integration, we are proud to be part of one the most technically advanced embedded Linux distributions. This will allow ELinOS customers to integrate our leading ClarinoxBlue stack into their applications” said Trish Messiter, CEO at Clarinox. “Together, we will support ClarinoxBlue in ELinOS implementations, so that developers can guarantee the longevity of their applications.”

AirCar Makes First Flight

AirCar, a dual-mode car-aircraft vehicle moved closer to production this week, fulfilling a key development milestone in a 35-minute flight from the international airport in Nitra to the international airport in Bratislava on June 28, 2021.

Klein Vision’s patent protected AirCar completed its 142nd successful landing in Bratislava at 6:05AM. After landing, at a click of a button the aircraft transformed into a sports car in under three minutes and was driven by its inventor, Professor Stefan Klein and co-founder, Anton Zajac to downtown Bratislava, cutting the typical travel time by a factor of two.

“Professor Stefan Klein is the world leader in the development of user-friendly Flying Cars,” said Dr. Branko Sarh, Boeing Co. Senior Technical Fellow. “The automated transition from road vehicle into an air vehicle and vice versa, deploying/retracting wings and tail is not only the result of pioneering enthusiasm, innovative spirit and courage; it is an outcome of excellent engineering and professional knowledge,” he added.

The AirCar Prototype 1 is equipped with a 160HP BMW engine with fixed-propeller and a ballistic parachute. Under the supervision of the Civil Aviation Authority, the AirCar has completed over 40 hours of test flights, including steep 45 degree turns and stability and maneuverability testing. AirCar Prototype 1 has flown at 8200 ft and reached a maximum cruising speed of 190km/h (103kt).

AirCar Prototype 2, the pre-production model, will be equipped with a 300HP engine and receive the EASA CS-23 aircraft certification with an M1 road permit. With its variable pitch propeller, the Prototype 2 is expected to have a cruise speed of 300km/h (162kt) and range of 1000km (621mi).

“This flight starts a new era of dual transportation vehicles. It opens a new category of transportation and returns the freedom originally attributed to cars back to the individual.” said Professor Klein after exiting the AirCar cockpit in Bratislava. “AirCar is no longer just a proof of concept; flying at 8,200ft at a speed of 100kt, it has turned science fiction into a reality.” Added Anton Zajac, the co-founder of Klein Vision.

VoltAero Signs Airways Aviation as its French Launch Customer for the Cassio Family of Hybrid-Electric Aircraft

An agreement signed today positions Airways Aviation as the candidate launch customer in France for VoltAero’s family of Cassio hybrid-electric aircraft, to be deployed for regional mobility and in pilot training.

Based on this Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), VoltAero will collaborate with Airways Aviation on defining the utilization of Cassio aircraft in their four-, six- and 10-seat versions (the Cassio 330, Cassio 480 and Cassio 600, respectively) to develop scheduled and on-demand air transport services in Southern France.

Additionally, Airways Aviation is to explore Cassio’s use in the company’s own world-class pilot training courses – including the development of a flight simulator, as well as evolving innovative training and courses related to hybrid-electric technologies in aviation – covering such subject matter as airports and infrastructure.

The Memorandum of Understanding was signed today by Jean Botti, VoltAero’s CEO and Chief Technical Officer; and Capt. Mauro Calvano, the President of Airways Aviation, during an event at Airways Aviation’s Montpellier-Méditerranée Airport headquarters.

This event, which was themed: “For a Quieter and Cleaner Sky,” also included the presence of VoltAero’s Cassio 1 hybrid-electric demonstrator aircraft, which performed a local flight to highlight its performance capabilities and low noise level. Cassio 1 was made available for inspection by invited local and regional officials, as well as by pilots currently in Airways Aviation’s training.

“Airways Aviation is the perfect partner for VoltAero, as this company’s dual expertise in pilot training and aircraft operations will enable us to jointly pursue a shared vision for the future of hybrid-electric aircraft,” Botti said.

With 30-plus years of expertise, Airways Aviation’s business activity includes the Airways Aviation Academy – a leading global aviation school for the training of pilots, cabin crews and ground-based workers at locations in France and Australia. In 2019, Airways Aviation Group acquired the renowned French aviation education and training organization, ESMA (Ecole Supérieure des Métiers de l’Aéronautique), which is the largest and most important privately- owned multidisciplinary aviation school in Europe.

To date, Airways Aviation and ESMA have graduated a combined total of more than 33,000 pilots, cabin crew members, aircraft maintenance engineers and ground handling personnel.

Capt. Calvano added: “We all are very excited about the collaboration. Our mission at Airways Aviation is to train, educate and shape a new generation of industry professionals, and we do it in a socially responsible manner – so this is a natural partnership with VoltAero. As we believe VoltAero’s Cassio will be a game changer, we also are looking at the potential for air taxi operations with the aircraft in beautiful Southern France and the Mediterranean area.”

VoltAero is advancing the Cassio family’s design phase, benefitting from the validation of its hybrid-electric powertrain through flight trials with the company’s Cassio 1 demonstrator aircraft. The first Cassio version to be produced is the four-seat Cassio 330, with a combined hybrid-electric power of 330 kilowatts. Cassio 330 deliveries are targeted beginning in 2023, to be followed by the Cassio 480 and Cassio 600, utilizing hybrid-electric propulsion rated at 480 and 600 kilowatts, respectively.

At full rate, VoltAero anticipates producing approximately 150 aircraft per year for the Cassio aircraft family.

Marotta Controls Adds Additive Manufacturing to Expanding List of Capabilities

Marotta Controls reports that they have successfully integrated additive manufacturing (AM) into its portfolio of services. The company validated the capability’s viability by using its now patented method to create internal features of an advanced manifold valve. The selective laser sintering (SLS) design technique generated nuanced radial passages in various geometries not possible to achieve via traditional machine boring methods. Given this, the new manifold valve delivered increased velocity pressure control.

Marotta also confirmed that it is incorporating AM to reduce parts, simplify assembly and shorten lead times to deliver lower cost, higher performing products.

“We have a near 80-year culture of creative thinking, of challenging the status quo,” said Brian Fly, vice president Marine Systems, Marotta Controls. “And we’re proud to confirm that that mindset resulted in a remarkable evolution to a tried and true part used for generations. Additive manufacturing offers some very interesting opportunities that we’re inherently designed to embrace on behalf of our customers. We anticipate more unique, disruptive innovations to come out of this capability as we continue to apply it.”

Additive manufacturing has long been touted across many industries as a smart way to accelerate the supply chain, initially used as a rapid tooling solution for custom injection mold creation and the like. Notably, a 2020 market report by Mordor Intelligence forecasted that the aerospace and defense market’s use of 3D printing will experience a 20 percent CAGR by 2025. This trend will only likely increase as military standards continue to adapt not just to the manufacturing process itself, but to the use of the necessary composite materials, too.

Proof of Concept: The Manifold Valve
Marotta Controls first came into existence troubleshooting valve designs that, despite being accepted as proven parts, continued to leak in end applications. The company ultimately fixed these issue and others, establishing itself as a go-to engineering shop capable of solving difficult problems. Which is why the company took on the challenge of improving the manifold’s performance in high pressure applications—a problem that required re-evaluating how and where best to apply Bernoulli’s equation within the system’s design.

Early manifold iterations saw performance increases driven by the introduction of new materials, chamber reconfigurations, and other mechanical adaptations. These solutions launched new product lines for Marotta that were customizable to a wide range of standards for military as well as commercial applications. However, the company still saw additional areas for innovation.

Valves and manifolds are historically produced via subtractive machining, with boring tools removing unwanted material to construct their radial passages within a single metal block. The radial passages are typically cylindrical or slightly frustoconical in nature. This design approach allows for passages that expand in two dimensions. By introducing a third dimension through AM, however, Marotta has improved those passage features to achieve desired performance.

Marotta’s patented approach starts with a 3D CAD model of choice that can meet varying ranges of end application specifications. Via the SLS machine, powdered metal is fused together layer by layer to construct a solid, single-pieced component with three-dimensional passage structures that can vary in shape—diamond, horizontal dome, spindle, branch-like, and others.

Marotta has evaluated its 3D valve concept in more than a dozen design configurations, with the passage structures varying. Velocity improvements are notable as is the part’s impact on the overall manifold’s production and performance.

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