Arc improvements help test teams meet growing workload

Air Force photograph by Deirdre Ortiz

John Allan, an instrument technician, readies one of the arc heater units at the High Temperature Laboratory at Arnold Air Force Base for an upcoming test. The HTL test teams anticipate an increased workload over the next few years and have been implementing several changes recently in preparation for the additional testing.

Changes are being implemented at the Arnold Engineering Development Complex High Temperature Laboratory at Arnold Air Force Base, Tenn., to assist the test teams in meeting their continuously increasing workload.

The HTL houses the arc heater units – H1, H2 and H3 – that provide aerothermal simulation environments for high-speed vehicle materials and structures.

According to Jonathan Kodman, project engineer, the arc heaters are in “high demand,” recently reaching a record year of about 60 test runs.
“We could potentially see close to 100 runs in the future,” he said.

Benjamin Weaver, Air Force project manager, explained the HTL test teams are working a lot of hours and overtime to get the work done but, as the requests to use the facility continue to come in, they have been looking at even further ways to accommodate additional testing.

“A study was done to look at everything from the system, process, and infrastructure to see how we can improve our throughput to meet the upcoming requirements,” Weaver said.

Kodman, who led the study, wrote a report laying out the various options for improvement, the scope of that work, and cost estimates. One of those options was using a 3-D printer to print parts for the arc heaters.

Having the ability to instead 3-D print these parts will allow for a much quicker turnaround for testing in the arc heaters.

“There’s definitely a cost-savings associated with doing this,” Kodman added. “We don’t have to wait for the parts to be shipped in to us.”

The study showed another way to meet the increasing workload would be by getting express sleds to move the data out of the control room faster.

“The 4K video we take of the testing in the arc heaters has to be compressed down and now all this is done in the control room,” Kodman said. “We would like to move that process out of the control room so we can be prepping for the next test while we’re finishing up video processing.”

While these are only two of the items the study identified, Elijah Minter, the Mid-Pressure Arc Heater Project director, mentioned that these are “ideas that will provide immediate impact” and assist the facility in reaching future testing requirements.