Dayton, Ohio, has been a center of aviation innovation since Wilbur and Orville Wright flew a bi-plane kite in 1899. Wright-Patterson Air Force Base was built in 1917 and today employs about 35,000 military and civilian personnel. GE Aerospace employs about 1,400 in Dayton-area facilities, and its headquarters is just 60 miles south in Cincinnati.The newest aerospace innovator to Dayton employs only five people, but Hyphen Innovations is not your typical start-up. Its i-DAMP technology (Inherent Damping via Additive Manufacturing Processes) suppresses vibration by leveraging additive manufacturing (AM), which could disrupt traditional turbine engine blade manufacturing and repair. Founder Onome Scott-Emuakpor, Ph.D., started his career at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) 23 years ago. “I was introduced to all of the technology that goes into making a turbine engine from a structural perspective,” says Scott-Emuakpor. “The research lab gave me a start-to-finish understanding of the turbine blade, including materials, manufacturing process, design, implementation, and operation, giving rise to our research and technology development at Hyphen today.”i-DAMP technology works by leaving unfused powder trapped inside a part in strategic locations. As a part vibrates, the unfused powder moves and counters the vibration motions and dissipates energy.“With i-DAMP, all we need is 1% to 4% of unfused powder within a component to be able to suppress vibration by as much as 95%,” says Scott-Emuakpor. To demonstrate, he takes two sample turbine blades and strikes them with pen (see video ).“When vibration occurs, there’s a ringing sound. The standard blade rings for three or four seconds. The i-DAMP blade didn’t ring at all,” says Scott-Emuakpor. “The lack of ringing is essentially the response being suppressed. It can suppress vibration and the stresses that would cause fatigue.”After developing i-DAMP technology, Scott-Emuakpor took advantage of AFRL’s Entrepreneurial Opportunities Program that helps turn ARFL people and ideas into new private sector business.“I jumped at the opportunity to further develop the i-DAMP intellectual property, and I took AFRL’s crash course in becoming an entrepreneur,” says Scott-Emuakpor. Securing ResourcesTurbine engines also experience bird strikes and other circumstances that can change operating conditions and become catastrophic if not immediately inspected and caught.“With i-DAMP, you may be able to still operate without failure until you get to your next destination,” says Scott-Emuakpor. “For parts that are inspected quite frequently for maintenance, repair, and overhaul, you can extend inspection intervals by up to two times, which would save billions of dollars annually for the aerospace and defense industry.”Finding those savings is easier said than done, as AM is capital equipment intensive. Obtaining the resources, investment dollars, and workforce was challenging and humbling.  “As a researcher who creates things, I had to check my ego at the door and do what was necessary to gather the resources to be successful,” says Scott-Emuakpor.With help from some area investors, Hyphen acquired the necessary resources and moved forward. Hyphen has five people and more than $1 million in equipment, which includes a Creaform HandySCAN 3D laser scanner (IMTS booth #134250), and an M450 laser wire-directed energy deposition AM system from Meltio (IMTS booth #432217).Because Dayton is an aerospace innovation hub, other experts are also within a stone’s throw of the area. “Laser powder bed fusion is one of the key technologies used for i-DAMP, but the equipment is very expensive to own for a research company,” says Scott-Emuakpor. “We connected with Laser Fusion Solutions, one of the premier AM experts within the Dayton area. Partnering with them shortens our learning curve and reduces the necessary in-house resources.”Status Quo DisruptorJust 16 months into full operation, Hyphen has been selected for nearly $1,000,000 in contracts, two of which leverage i-DAMP technology. Furthermore, one of the projects is manufacturing a new turbine engine fan that implements i-DAMP and another applies the technology to repairs.“Our goal is not just to repair failed blades, but to enhance them after repairs,” says Scott-Emuakpor. In addition, Hyphen is conducting research using a micro-turbine engine to double its thrust, as well as explore hybrid technology.“One of the reasons why we’re getting into hybrid turbine engines is to combat some of the challenges in advanced air mobility, or urban air mobility, where a lot of the customers are looking for systems that can travel about 300 miles,” says Scott-Emuakpor. “A lot of the focus in that industry has been on battery power only. The hybrid engine significantly extends the capability of the range that customers want.”Scott-Emuakpor views Hyphen as a disruptor because where larger companies advance technology at the rate at which consumers request it, they are moving ahead of consumer demand.  “We believe that certain aerospace, maritime, and automotive components can perform better than what’s currently out there,” says Scott-Emuakpor. “However, there is a status quo set by large players. If you’re small enough, no one’s threatened by you, and you can create disruptive things within a small bubble. Our strategy is to work with a select few of the large companies so that when it’s time to disrupt, we essentially have top cover. A lot of what I do is find big brothers who like Hyphen Innovations.” So far, that includes GE Aerospace, Siemens (IMTS booth #133249 and 433028) and EOS (IMTS booth #432302). Premier Networking EventScott-Emuakpor first attended IMTS in 2022, where he was invited to speak about his transition from a Division 1 basketball player at Wright State into a Ph.D. after damaging his knee (view video). “I’d heard about IMTS, but I didn’t quite know what to expect. You hear large numbers. Then you get there and you realize how overwhelming it is,” he says. “It’s not just the people. It’s the different industries that all play into manufacturing. All of a sudden, I was no longer in a world of just aerospace and defense technology. IMTS has almost every other industry that makes anything. It’s a premier place to go to network, to do business development, to expand the capability and the reach of what Hyphen Innovations can do. I suddenly started seeing places where our technology could be implemented.”Naturally, Scott-Emuakpor also appreciates the focus on additive manufacturing at IMTS. “The Additive Manufacturing Sector at IMTS was probably one of the most diverse and largest that I’ve seen in any additive manufacturing conference within North America,” he says. “IMTS is a one-stop shop for anybody who is into additive manufacturing.”Network and explore the vast world of manufacturing technology at IMTS 2024. Register at IMTS.com/Register.
Start-up research company Hyphen Innovations uses 3D printing technology to focus on optimizing performance of critical structural components within a turbine engine. IMTS helped manifest some of the company’s aerospace and defense ideas into existence, but the show also provides a vision of using the technology in other industries.