3D Systems has secured a $15 million contract to develop a metal 3D printer that can produce large parts quickly and precisely by the Combat Capabilities Development Command Army Research Laboratory (ARL).
The ARL is hopeful the resulting printer will have a big impact on the supply chains associated with long-range munitions, combat vehicles, helicopters, and air and missile defence capabilities. 3D Systems will work with the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS) to develop the machine to the ARL’s specifications.
Additive manufacturing (AM) has been leveraged by the U.S. Armed Forces for two decades, producing custom tools and refurbishing worn parts, but the aim is to implement this metal printing platform for the manufacture of long-lasting durable parts. The build area of the printer is set to be around 1000 x 1000 x 600 mm, while it will be able to print parts with a wall thickness of 100µm and layer thickness of 30µm.
“The Army is increasing readiness by strengthening its relationships and interoperability with business partners, like 3D Systems, who advance warfighter requirements at the best value to the taxpayer,” commented Dr. Joseph South, ARL’s Programme Manager for Science of Additive Manufacturing for Next Generation Munitions. “Up until now, powder bed laser 3D printers have been too small, too slow, and too imprecise to produce major ground combats subsystems at scale. Our goal is to tackle this issue head-on with the support of allies and partners who aid the Army in executing security cooperation activities in support of common national interests, and who help enable new capabilities for critical national security supply chains.”
“Through this project, we’re looking forward to delivering a working manufacturing system like no other,” added Chuck Hull, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer at 3D Systems. “From the early years of 3D Systems, our desire to innovate has been fuelled by our customers’ drive to be leaders in their respective industries. The solutions we develop have complemented many manufacturers’ processes to help maintain their competitive advantage. ARL has already realised the power of AM to transform its operations. We look forward to collaborating with them to scale and expand these capabilities by delivering first-to-market processes, materials, and technologies.”
The Army is set to install the new metal 3D printing platform in its depots and labs, while 3D Systems plan to make it available to aerospace and defence suppliers for the development of ‘futuristic’ Army platforms.