3D Systems, Rock Hill, South Carolina, USA, has been awarded a $15 million contract by the Combat Capabilities Development Command Army Research Laboratory (ARL), to create what has been dubbed “the world’s largest, fastest, most precise metal 3D printer.” The system is expected to significantly impact key supply chains associated with long-range munitions, next-generation combat vehicles, helicopters, and air and missile defence capabilities.
According to the U.S. Army Additive Manufacturing Implementation Plan, the army has been using AM for two decades to refurbish worn parts and create custom tools. Once developed, it will place the new large-scale systems in its depots and labs. Subsequently, 3D Systems and its partners plan to make the new AM system’s technology available to leading aerospace and defence suppliers for development of futuristic army platforms.
In each of these cases, the planned system’s large scale and precision are expected to enable more efficient design and production of long-term durable parts with reduced material usage, as well as faster time-to-market for parts going into the field. The planned build envelope is 1000 mm x 1000 mm x 600 mm, with the ability to build to a minimum wall thickness of 100 µm and layer thickness of 30 µm.
“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,” stated Dr Joseph South, ARL’s Program 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 combat 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.”
3D Systems and the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS) were awarded funding to create the new system and will partner with ARL and the Advanced Manufacturing, Materials, and Processes (AMMP) Program. In addition to bringing a new metal AM solution to the army, the company will also evaluate the feasibility of integrating the new technologies and processes into its existing portfolio of AM technologies.
“Through this project, we’re looking forward to delivering a working manufacturing system like no other,” commented Chuck Hull, co-founder and CTO, 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.”
“What 3D Systems is doing currently is nothing short of pioneering,” added Lisa Strama, Pesident and CEO, NCMS. “As the capstone project of the AMMP Program, it will lead to critical breakthroughs for our members and partners, enhancing performance and speeding innovations to market. This technology will be not only transformational for supporting our warfighter, but also across the supply chain.”