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Knowing how to REACT

An image of an engineer working in the REACT Lab.

Todd Bayles, an engineer in the Reverse Engineering and Critical Tooling Lab, works on a computer-aided design (CAD) of a B-52 battery vent outlet. Two Boeing B-52 Stratofortress' were in need of the parts in order to meet their depot maintenance deadline and REACT engineers were able to reverse engineer the parts to help the B-52 team deliver the aircraft on-time. (U.S. Air Force photo/Kelly White)

An image of an engineer holding a battery vent tube.

Todd Bayles, REACT Cell engineer lead, holds a B-52 battery vent tube created using additive manufacturing to put the aircraft, B-52H 60-0015, back in to service as there were no spare parts available. This small plastic part had the potential to keep two massive B-52 Stratofortress’ on the ground after completing depot level overhaul. See story for the surprising figure of how much it was costing the Air Force to keep the aircraft grounded and how much the part cost to solve the problem. (U.S. Air Force photo/Greg L. Davis)

When the U.S. Air Force calls, Tinker’s Reverse Engineering and Critical Tooling lab knows how to REACT.
A recent situation involving two Boeing B-52 Stratofortresses that are undergoing planned depot maintenance is one of the latest examples of the REACT Laboratory, located in Bldg. 9001, helping to sustain Tinker and the Air Force’s mission.
According to Kenneth Stotts, a contract engineer with the B-52 division, the problem started when two B-52s needed battery vent outlets, but when there were no bids to repair the aircraft despite multiple solicitations, the problem became even bigger.
 So he said they turned to the REACT lab, whose engineers provided a solution that potentially saved the Air Force millions of dollars.
“We needed the parts immediately,” he said. “The aircraft had a limited amount of time to get out of depot maintenance.”
One of the B-52s had a deadline of Sept. 23, and the other is Dec. 5. Stotts said one has already left the base, and the other will follow at some point.
Blake Grimwood, Todd Bayles and Kathy Cannon, the REACT engineers who took on the project, are working to ensure those deadlines are met.
“I was excited for the opportunity to be a part of the solution,” Grimwood said. “It was great to see all of us working together to remove roadblocks quickly enough to where the mission wasn’t negatively impacted.”
The REACT engineers used their engineering capabilities to manufacture the battery vent part for the two aircraft – all for about $3,600.
“Low quantity injection molded parts like this one are great applications for replacing with selective laser sintering printed parts at lower cost and quicker production,” Bayles said.
Several state and military officials have visited the lab since it opened last year, including Oklahoma Secretary of Commerce and Workforce Development Sean Kouplen, and Brent Kisling, Executive Director for the Department of Commerce, who toured the lab in May.
The lab, which provides for cutting-edge innovation that reduces cost and provides rapid solutions, uses additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, to minimize depot maintenance costs, produce rapid prototyping and design iteration, as well as performing dimensional verification and low volume tooling.
For assistance with issues that relate to these sustainment challenges, REACT lab officials said to follow these steps:
  • Identify a need or requirement, and then email 76CMXG.REACTTEAM@us.af.mil.
  • Submit a request for quote (AFMC Form 501) to OC-ALC/OB RFQ Workflow OC-ALC.OB.RFQ@us.af.mil and approve the returned work estimate and statement of work.
The lab will take care of the rest.
Once approved, the REACT lab will initiate a pre-production plan to establish funding. Last, the lab will initiate work and track progress toward meeting customer requirements.