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UConn receives $8M contract from Air Force for project to improve aerospace manufacturing

A Pratt and Whitney employee gets a closer look at the company's new PurePower PW1100G-JM jet engine in this 2015 photo.

MICHAEL MCANDREWS, HARTFORD COURANT/TNS

By AMANDA BLANCO | The Hartford Courant | Published: September 1, 2020

(Tribune News Service) — UConn has received an $8 million contract from the Air Force Research Laboratory to continue a project focused on improving aerospace manufacturing.

The research project, which began in 2018, will be extended through 2023 with the financial support of the Air Force. The project team will also grow from seven faculty researchers to 16 UConn faculty members, 21 graduate students and one postdoctoral researcher.

Using smart manufacturing techniques, thermomechanical testing and systems engineering concepts, they will study the production of aerospace parts.

“The overarching idea here is to actually assess the complete manufacturing cycle of a high-value added aerospace component,” General Electric Professor in Advanced Manufacturing Pamir Alpay said, in a written statement. Alpay also serves as the executive director of the Innovation Partnership Building at the UConn Tech Park in Storrs, where some of the research may take place.

“Our main objective is to provide transformative capabilities for manufacturing technologies to the [Air Force Research Laboratory], equipment manufacturers, and the supply chain to reduce scrap rates, increase yield and performance, and cut down failures,” he said.

The research team will also look at how aerospace parts perform under extreme conditions, such as extreme pressure and temperatures, which they experience during the manufacturing process and at work in aircrafts.

“This is wonderful news for the UConn Tech Park and our researchers,” UConn President Thomas Katsouleas said, in a statement. “It’s a concrete demonstration of the value UConn brings to our industry partners, to our state, and to the greater pursuit of knowledge. I’m looking forward to the successes generated by this research, and to many more in the future.”

The project will also involve continued work with industry partners, including Pratt & Whitney and Sikorsky Aircraft. According to the state, Connecticut is home to more than 1,000 aerospace manufacturers and component firms and Connecticut manufacturers bring in nearly $12 billion in defense contracts annually.

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