ITAMCO Wins Phase II Funding for 3D-Printed Runway Mat Development

Plymouth, Indiana – August 10, 2020. ITAMCO (Indiana Technology and Manufacturing Companies) is part of a team developing a new runway mat for the United States Air Force. ITAMCO has been awarded funding for Phase II of the program by SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research). SBIR hosts a highly competitive program that encourages USA-based small businesses to engage in Federal Research / Research and Development with the potential for commercialization.

The portable runway surface most used today is made with an aluminum plank matting called AM-2. AM-2 matting has served the United States 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.

Phase II of the 3D-Printed Runway Mat Development Project
As the winner of Phase I funding, ITAMCO was able to compete for Phase II funding. In Phase I, ITAMCO and its project partners established the technical merit, feasibility and commercial potential of their concept using PXCM technology for the runway mat.

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. The team will also be testing the prototype against the MIL-Spec for the AM-2 runway mat.

The objective of the research has been to develop a robust sheet or roll technology that serves as an alternative to the AM-2 mat for temporary or expeditionary flight operations. A portable airfield mat must be easy to install and store, yet capable of withstanding the stresses of repeated take-offs and landings of aircraft. The technology team at ITAMCO is working on the project with Professor Pablo Zavattieri in the Lyles School of Civil Engineering at Purdue University. The proposed technology solution is comprised of an upper surface that mates with a lower surface and contains Phase Transforming Cellular Matrix (PXCM) geometry to mitigate anticipated loading and shear stresses.

Tech. Sgt. Dan Zimmerman (back) and Senior Airman Thet Tun (front) carry a piece of AM2 matting material in Camp Dwyer, Afghanistan, July 12, 2016. Zimmerman and Tun constructed a 100’ x 100’ helicopter landing zone out of AM-2 matting to support the medical facility at Camp Dwyer. ITAMCO will be replacing the labor-intensive AM-2 matting with a revolutionary product. (Courtesy photo by 451 Air Expeditionary Support Squadron)

What is PXCM?
In the simplest terms, products made with PXCM geometry have the ability to change from one stable configuration to another stable configuration and back again. According to David Restrepo in a 2016 article published by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers[1], results have shown that PXCMs can perform similarly to commercial metallic cellular structures used for energy dissipation without relying on plastic deformation. “The main advantage is that not only can it be used as an energy-absorbing material but unlike many other materials designed for this purpose, the PXCMs would be reusable because there is no irreversible deformation,” said Professor Zavattieri. This means the new runway mat can “heal” itself, resulting in a much longer lifespan than a runway made with AM-2 matting.

Additional benefits of the new runway material include:
The PXCM solution is targeted to weigh 3.5 lb. per sq. ft. or less.
It can be laid by hand over a level surface of the appropriate density.
Debris on the runway will not hamper the runway’s performance.
It will support flight operations of 5,000 landing and takeoff cycles over 60 days.

The Project Partners

Since 1955, ITAMCO has provided open gearing and precision machining services to heavy-duty industries including Mining, Off-Highway Vehicles, Marine, and Aviation. In addition to the company’s offerings in traditional manufacturing, the technology team at ITAMCO has released over 65 applications for mobile devices; designed and markets iBlue, the first industrial Bluetooth transmitter; developed an award-winning Google Glass application; and launched their successful “Strategic Technology Initiative for Additive Manufacturing” in 2015. The company continues to explore alternatives to traditional processes. Learn more about ITAMCO at or call (574) 936-2112.

Pablo Zavattieri with the Lyles School of Civil Engineering at Purdue University
Pablo Zavattieri is an associate professor at Purdue University.His contributions to industry and academia focus on the boundary between solid mechanics and materials engineering.The Lyles School of Civil Engineering, ranked among the top in the nation, generates solutions to critical global problems.

The prototypes of the mat will be made on ITAMCO’s EOS M290 additive manufacturing printer. EOS is a leading technology supplier in the field of industrial 3D printing of metals and polymers.

Atlas 3D
Developed in 2015, Sunata™ by Atlas 3D is a cloud-based, ITAR-compliant software developed to support Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) rinters. Known as the metal additive “Easy Button,” it chooses the optimal orientation and automatically generates the necessary support structures to ensure a successful build.  Currently, Sunata is used at Fortune 500 companies, the United States Department of Defense, cutting-edge manufacturers, medical devices companies, and many others. 

Source: ITAMCO

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