AEDC Innovation Grant allows for completion of 3-D ASTF model

Air Force photograph by Bradley HIcks

A digital 3-D model recently completed by Science and Analytical Engineer Dwain Clark depicts the Aeropropulsion Systems Test Facility.

Science and Analytical Engineer Dwain Clark hopes to eventually take representations of facilities across Arnold Air Force Base, Tenn., to another dimension.

Through the utilization of an AEDC Innovation Grant, Clark now has a start.

Earlier this year, Clark completed a digital 3-D model of the Aeropropulsion Systems Test Facility. The computer-aided design shows the test cells and systems that make up ASTF and the airflow path through ASTF.

The model is color-coded. Hot and cold legs along the airflow path are shown in red and blue, respectively, and the ambient leg of ASTF is depicted as beige. The mixing leg of the facility is depicted in yellow, and exhaust is shown as orange.

“The goal of this was to make you feel like you had been to ASTF without ever setting foot over there,” Clark said.

With the Innovation Grant, Clark was also able to create a video of his CAD that depicts the airflow pathway through the ASTF.

Clark received the Innovation Grant award in the fall of 2017 and began work on his proposed 3-D ASTF model soon afterward. He completed the model in February using Autodesk Inventor software. To complete the CAD, Clark pored over 2-D drawings and photos.

“That was actually the hardest part of it,” he said. “That’s the most time-consuming effort – gathering the 2-D drawings, gathering all the information that’s currently out there. The modeling part is actually the easier part.”

Clark said he was inspired to pursue the project after seeing a Bechtel video in which a system failure at a different site was identified through the use of a 3-D model. Believing such models would benefit facilities at Arnold AFB, Clark developed a 3-D model of the Propulsion Wind Tunnel 16-foot Transonic Wind Tunnel (16T). After Clark’s supervisor got a look at his 16T model, he encouraged Clark to pursue an Innovation Grant to complete 3-D modeling around the base.

A digital 3-D model recently completed by Science and Analytical Engineer Dwain Clark depicts the Aeropropulsion Systems Test Facility.

Clark opted to use the grant to start with a model of ASTF.

The application of the 3-D model will allow engineers to pinpoint and communicate system failures before entering the facility.

“If you can see something that will give you an idea what you’re looking at and what your engineers are talking about, if it can keep you from going over there, you’re in a better, safer environment,” Clark said.

The model could also be used for maintenance purposes by pointing out key areas such as expansion turbines and compressors.

“If you’re telling a craftsman, ‘I need you to go out there and repair AVTC3,’ he may have to go out there and crawl around for a while if he’s not familiar,” Clark said. “But if you can say, ‘It’s right here at the T shape,’ or, ‘It’s right outside the test building,’ or, ‘It’s right where it hooks up to leg 2,’ you give them a lot easier time finding the location. I’d really like to achieve that fidelity level where I can show you something on the model and you can go out there and find it pretty quick.”

Along with these, the model could also serve as a training tool, helping those new to Arnold AFB identify features and such functions of the ASTF. Because the model provides accurate dimensions, it could also be used to determine if additional equipment would fit within the facility.

Clark also has plans for the model outside of the Innovation Grant. He said the model can be updated to increase fidelity and include additional information and details, such as Computational Fluid Dynamics, valves and engines in test facilities.

“You can go as in-depth as you want to go with CAD modeling,” he said. “You’ve just got to figure out if it is value-added. Obviously, I think fuel lines, hydraulic lines, water lines would add value, so we could do that as well.”

Clark said he enjoyed completing the 3-D ASTF model and learned much from the experience. He said he would like to work on giving the remainder of facilities at Arnold AFB the 3-D model treatment.

“I’d love to, because if you’ve ever seen any of the 2-D drawings of the base, it’s hard to understand magnitude and scale from a 2-D drawing,” Clark said.

The AEDC Innovation Program policies and objectives define innovation as “using knowledge, technologies and tools to create or deliver something new in terms of product or process for improving some element of AEDC’s performance.”

Innovation is a key focus in the U.S. Air Force Vision. This vision recognizes the fact that President Harry S. Truman played an important role in the current mission by establishing an independent Air Force in 1947 to better protect the country, its citizens and its allies. The Air Force has continued to innovate itself into a global project of military power through air, space and cyberspace.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein has advocated and continued to stress the importance of innovation.

“We are the service you rely on to push the limits of innovation,” he said. “It’s in our bloodline. We’ve faced challenges before and overcame them with ideas.”

Science and Analytical Engineer Dwain Clark displays his digital 3-D model of the Aeropropulsion Systems Test Facility. Clark completed the model using the AEDC Innovation Grant he received last fall.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said, “We are a service whose roots and history are very deep in innovation, and I want to make sure that we’re not losing that … I think we need to refresh and revitalize the innovative spirit of the Air Force.”

Michael Glennon, technical director of Engineering and Technical at Arnold AFB, has also mentioned that innovation is the “lifeblood of change” and can take multiple forms.

“This could be a policy change, technical improvement, software modernization or a new innovative way of solving problems,” he said.
The goal of the AEDC Innovation Grant program is to create an environment that allows the workforce to pursue significant risk on small scales to evaluate the efficiency of substantial changes in the processes, tools and technology used to conduct work across AEDC. The program provides modest funding and the opportunity for employees and teams to challenge the “status quo” at AEDC with the goal of improving productivity, reducing cost, improving deliverables, and enhancing customer and workforce satisfaction.

Individual employees or employee teams are allowed to submit proposals for innovation projects to address specific emphasis areas. In some cases, these proposals may address more than one area. The proposals do not have to identify a solution, but rather define a problem or challenge and the approach to developing or delivering a prototype solution.

It is expected that significant effort will be required in each case to fully characterize the challenge and the plausible range of solutions for pursuit and development. It is expected that proposals will reflect the desires and emphasis of the proposer, and that that this may not align with the emphasis of supervisors and managers.

For more information on the AEDC Innovation Grant program, visit the SharePoint site at or call 931-454-4815.