Northrop Grumman speeds up additive manufacturing process for advanced weaponry

SCRAM system printing a composite engine duct. (Photo: Northrop Grumman)

SCRAM system printing a composite engine duct. (Photo: Northrop Grumman)

AM Chronicle Editor

Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) is accelerating development of high temperature materials through its Scalable Composite Robotic Additive Manufacturing Carbon/Carbon (SCRAM C/C) to support emerging hypersonic and high-speed weapons.

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“We are pioneering a rapid fabrication process that does not require tooling to manufacturing aerospace-grade, continuous fiber integrated composite structures,” said Dan Olson, vice president and general manager of Weapon Systems for Northrop Grumman. “This manufacturing advancement will deliver capability to the field much faster than traditional methods, and ensures our warfighters have the latest technology and advanced weapons to counter both existing and future threats.”

SCRAM is an industrial, true 6-axis continuous fiber-reinforced 3D printer, which enables the fabrication of integrated composite structures. These structures then undergo a proprietary manufacturing process and turned into C/C to service the high temperature materials community where complex, near-net shapes are required.

Historically, C/C manufacturing techniques have been labor intensive. By introducing process automation, the manufacturing time and cost can be reduced by up to 50 percent over traditional methods delivering capability to the field faster. Process automation has also shown a measurable uptick in component quality and consistency.

Northrop Grumman is printing continuous fiber composites at a large scale, an achievement that is unprecedented in the additive manufacturing industry. The company’s process does not require long-lead tooling and incorporates in-situ consolidation of the composite, which dramatically changes the cost paradigm to manufacture high temperature composites. The company has been awarded multiple patents on SCRAM technology.

Northrop Grumman recently joined the federal government in implementing AM Forward, a voluntary initiative aimed at strengthening U.S.-based suppliers’ adoption and deployment of additive manufacturing (AM) capabilities. AM has the potential to improve the agility of aerospace manufacturers where legacy casting and forging processes are often resource and time intensive; it is a leading-edge production technology that is foundational to U.S. global competitiveness and manufacturing resiliency.

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