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NEWS | Jan. 6, 2022

Fuels Airman Drives Innovation Through 3-D Printing

By Senior Airman Zoie Cox

It is hard to predict how the coronavirus pandemic might negatively affect readiness. But thanks to the innovation and problem-solving experience of SrA Houston Sasser, 633d Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels training supervisor, and two of his wingmen, they were able to present an idea and produce a product to get the mission back on track.

Sasser teamed up with 633d LRS leadership to design and print his exponentially cheaper and more reinforced flame arrestor cap, which is anticipated to augment overall readiness and save Air Force resources.  

Leadership within the 633d Air Base Wing foster a culture of creativity and innovation where Airmen and Soldiers are encouraged and applauded for thinking outside the box to solve tricky situations.

At a weekly staff meeting Sasser attended, the issue emerged and leadership questioned why the equipment was out of service.

The component that failed was a Flame Arrestor cap on the high-lift, a vertical-extension platform used in refueling operations. The flame arrestor is a safety feature designed to prevent combustible fuel-air mixtures from creating a fire hazard.  It prevents the fuel in the expansion tank from igniting due to an outside-introduced ignition source such as sparks, flames or overheated aircraft brakes. 

“The unique part about the flame arrestor cap is that the pantograph systems that we use for Hot-Pit refueling require the same part,” said Sasser. “In the event that there is an issue with a pantograph cap, we now have the means to quickly return them to service to enable 1st Fighter Wing operations.”

Typically, when a part breaks or needs replacement, you would order another part. But when there are no more parts and no way to contact the supplier, you have to improvise and come up with a solution.

“I have been interested in 3-D printing for four years,” said Sasser. “3-D printing is truly a groundbreaking concept because operators will be able to design unique and geometrically accurate parts from the most sophisticated engineering perspective in a matter of hours, a fraction of the time it would take to order a replacement from a vendor, often resulting in overbuying or delays in logistics.”

The design process itself only took Sasser about two hours and approximately three hours to physically print.

”By 3-D printing the replacement flame arrestor cap, I was able to bring the high-lift back into service after nine months of inactivity and show the simplicity and ability to create complex parts or prototypes in theoretical solutions,” said Sasser.

The flame arrestor replacement costs 25 cents to produce with the added structural reinforcement. The benefits of this innovation are seen immediately and will continue to provide well into the future.

Sasser’s ingenuity was recognized among his peers, which earned him the opportunity to brief U.S. Air Force Col. Gregory Beaulieu, Joint Base Langley-Eustis commander. Sasser was also personally coined by Maj. Gen. Michael G. Koscheski, Fifteenth Air Force commander during his visit to JBLE.

“We are the world's greatest Air Force,” said Sasser. “We hold this title proudly because, logistically, we are able to sustain our Airmen with the tools, reserves and necessities needed to continue the fight.”