Detroit’s LIFT Launches Hypersonics Challenge Projects with Boeing and DoD

LIFT, the Detroit-based Department of Defense manufacturing innovation institute, along with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), today announced the launch of two projects led by Boeing as part of the ongoing Hypersonics Challenge directed by the institute.
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LIFT and Boeing are working on two new projects as part of the ongoing Hypersonics Challenge directed by the institute. // Courtesy of LIFT
LIFT and Boeing are working on two new projects as part of the ongoing Hypersonics Challenge directed by the institute. // Courtesy of LIFT

LIFT, the Detroit-based Department of Defense manufacturing innovation institute, along with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), today announced the launch of two projects led by Boeing as part of the ongoing Hypersonics Challenge directed by the institute.

The Hypersonics Challenge, which was kicked off in 2021 by LIFT and the DoD Manufacturing Technology Program, are overseen by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering. The challenge sought proposals on three specific topics critical to the materials science and manufacturing process of hypersonic vehicles.

“Understanding the materials and how they react to processing so components are near-net shape will help make the development and manufacture of hypersonic components faster, better, and cheaper for the U.S. industrial base, therefore advancing our position in this key technology area, relative to our adversaries,” says Nigel Francis, CEO and executive director of LIFT, which is located in Corktown.

The two projects announced today aim to advance the United States’ hypersonic manufacturing capabilities in a more cost-effective manner and in reduced time frames.

The first project, with partner Powdermet Inc., seeks to demonstrate near-net-shape manufacturing of metal matrix composite components for hypersonic vehicle demonstrators.

The high-performance, high-temperature alloys will drastically boost the capability of components in hypersonic flight environments, which when combined with near-net-shape manufacturing approaches, will provide quality mission critical components that are durable, reliable, and rapidly manufacturable, according to LIFT.

The second project proposes, with partners RPM Innovations Inc. and Intelligent Optical Systems Inc., to develop and verify a suite of in-situ build process monitoring sensors and non-destructive evaluation (NDE) approaches applicable to laser-directed energy deposition (L-DED) manufacturing for hypersonic applications.

Current post-process quality verification is time-consuming and expensive; in-process monitoring will help inform the quality of the build during the process, saving time and expensive metal powders.

“These projects will benefit the entire American manufacturing base, helping spur technology development from material producers all the way up to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs),” says Austin Mann, metallurgist/materials engineer at Boeing Research and Technology, and lead on the first project.

The Boeing projects are the final projects awarded through the challenge. Project awards were determined by a team consisting of LIFT and the Department of Defense. Decision criteria included technological merit, technology readiness level (TRL), manufacturing readiness level (MRL), funding requirements, cost-share commitment, ITAR compliance, and LIFT member engagement.

“Cost-effective approaches to developing hypersonic components that are reliable and rapidly producible are critical to our national security, and these projects will lead us down that path,” says Taisia Lou, additive manufacturing senior engineer at Boeing, and lead on the second project.

Along with Boeing, LIFT and the DoD announced and kicked off Hypersonics Challenge projects with ATC Materials Inc., Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon Technologies.

Operated by the American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute, LIFT is a public-private partnership between the Department of Defense, industry, and academia, with management through the Office of Naval Research.

LIFT develops and deploys advanced manufacturing technologies, while implementing talent development initiatives to better prepare the workforce today and in the future. The organization is funded in part by the Department of Defense with management through the Office of Naval Research.

For more information, visit www.lift.technology.

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