Materials Solutions/Engagement

QuesTek’s materials engineers, designers and software engineers provide deep technical knowledge to a broad range of industries and material-system-specific challenges.

Optimize material performance to achieve your goals. We use our knowledge base to enhance your technical capabilities and complement your engineering team.

We provide clients flexibility by utilizing proven QuesTek methodologies to achieve materials performance. Our Materials by Design® technology enables rapid, accurate, and realistic materials modeling to predict and optimize material performance for a wide range of applications.

Accelerated Insertion of Materials (AIM) allows for the quantification of uncertainty in material properties due to variations in the manufacturing process.This approach can be used to guide ongoing qualification efforts for new materials, improve reliability and repeatability of existing products, and much more.

The range of industries served and materials created by QuesTek is numerous and wide in scope. But the problems we solve are even further diversified. Here are a few examples.

Performance Enhancement: QuesTek maximizes the performance of novel materials by exploring the chemistry of a new alloy and analyzing the methods used in its manufacture with an eye on improvement.

Process Optimization: QuesTek helps clients improve existing materials by analyzing current performance, shedding light on where improvement can be achieved and mapping out a manufacturing path to incorporate those improvements.

  • Materials Analysis: QuesTek analyzes materials acquired by a client, identifying problems such as inconsistencies in quality, and provides guidance on how to get the most out of the materials.
  • Additive Manufacturing: QuesTek provides guidance on eliminating issues that occur within 3D printing, including cracking issues that may occur when printing newer alloys.
  • Cost Reduction: QuesTek identifies cost savings by pinpointing expensive alloying elements, such as the nickel used in many steels, and engineering ways to reduce the nickel content without affecting the properties of the material.

Novel Materials improve existing products.
The incorporation of new materials into engineered products, particularly in mission-critical industries such as aerospace, medical device, automotive or energy, can entail numerous iterations and production runs to qualify the material and develop statistically derived properties required by design engineers. This process is costly and time-consuming and comprises one of the largest areas of risk in the material development cycle. Our AIM methodology can be used to determine the probabilistic distribution of material performance as a function of composition and processing variation in the manufacturing process. These predictions can be calibrated to achieve high accuracy with limited data points. This provides our customers with the ability to forecast mechanical properties at the start of the qualification process. This represents a drastic risk reduction to the materials development cycle which can provide customers with significant time and cost savings.

QuesTek was a key contributor to the AIM program, a strategic initiative led by the United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Naval Research Laboratory (ONR). The AIM program produced a new methodology to develop new materials while reducing development time and design cycles.

The AIM program has achieved the following results:

  • Making it possible to set material requirements that are design driven by tightly linking design activities and materials engineering;
  • Providing designers with early prediction of material performance, with confidence bounds, throughout the development cycle;
  • Controlling material performance, reproducibility, and cost;
  • Lowering the risk of adding novel materials while also reducing the cost and time needed to generate reliable material data.

Client Success: High-Performance Steel

  • Ferrium M54 components qualified with >2x life vs. incumbent
  • First flight: 10/23/14
  • Navy placed order with QuesTek to deliver 60 hook shanks by 2017 ($5.3M cortract)
  • The U.S. Navy estimates $3 Million saved by implementing M54 steel

An exemplary client success story of Accelerated Insertion of Materials is the Navy carrier aircraft landing gear hook shanks. Under a contract with the Navy, QuesTek designed, produced, qualified, and placed the certified products, made of QuesTek’s proprietary Ferrium® M54 alloy, into flight operations on the Navy’s T-45 trainer aircraft, in 1/3 of the time of a typical design-to-flight cycle (in ~7 years vs typically 20 years). The hardness and toughness of the new gear enabled more than two times more landings on the platform, saving millions in maintenance costs and preventing numerous accidents, loss of aircraft (a T-45 costs $17.2M each), and injury or loss of young aviators. 

Concurrent Design is a methodology used in product development and systems engineering that evaluates and develops subsystem requirements iteratively to rapidly and efficiently maximize system performance. This practice has been used effectively across many industries and involves nearly all engineering disciplines due to the adoption of Computer Aided Design (CAD), Computer Aided Engineering (CAE), and Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) softwares. However, due to the typical time required to bring new materials to market, materials engineering and design efforts have not been compatible with rapid product development cycles. This limits product developers to “materials selection” activities rather than “materials design” and can limit product performance, especially when material requirements approach extremes.

Historically, novel engineered products have been designed using existing candidate materials that provided the best combination of properties for the intended application. Materials concurrency refers to integration of materials design into the concurrent design practice, in order to push the limits of system capabilities and efficiencies. The accelerated timelines for design, development and insertion of novel, advanced materials using an ICME approach has already been demonstrated through multiple examples, but the value of materials concurrency presents the opportunity to accelerate the timelines for deploying novel, advanced products.

Under an Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) funded program, ULTIMATE (Ultrahigh Temperature Impervious Materials Advancing Turbine Efficiency), QuesTek is applying materials concurrency to enable next-generation technologies within an accelerated timeline. QuesTek is working with industry-leading partners to design and develop a fully-integrated next-generation turbine blade alloy and coating system capable of sustained component operation at 1300°C. The alloy design is specifically focusing on a niobium-based multi-material system consisting of a ductile, precipitation-strengthened, creep-resistant alloy for the turbine “core” combined with an oxidation-resistant, bond coat-compatible Nb alloy for the “case” or near-surface regions. By enabling materials concurrency, the turbine blade design will be catered to the novel alloy being developed, thereby accelerating the timeline for qualification of a new, advanced technology can extend the operational capacity, efficiency and performance of next-generation turbines.

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