Australian Army succeeds in producing AM armoured vehicle parts in the field

November 1, 2021

An Additive Manufacturing Cell soldier with the additively manufactured wheel bearing part which took just twenty-nine minutes to build (Courtesy SPEE3D)

SPEE3D, Melbourne, Australia, reports that the Australian Army has proven it is possible to additively manufacture and replace armoured vehicle parts in the field, having done so during Exercise Koolendong, an annual bilateral military exercise between the Australian Army and the Marine Rotational Force – Darwin.

Various parts for the M113 Armored Personnel Carrier were replaced with metal parts additively manufactured on-site, using SPEE3D’s cold-spray AM WarpSPEE3D metal AM machine. Parts were identified, additively manufactured, certified and subsequently installed on vehicles.

The Australian Army is rapidly developing its metal manufacturing capability and, with the WarpSPEE3D, is said to be able to create significantly faster and more cost-effective metal part production than any other process. The machine can additively manufacture large metal parts up to 40 kg at a record rate of 100 g per minute.

SPEE3D has been working closely with the Australian Army and Royal Australian Navy to bring this capability to the Australian Defence Force with world-first field trials designed to test the feasibility of deploying metal AM as a capability, both in barracks and in the field. A number of field trials in 2020 resulted in over fifty case studies of printable parts and demonstrated that SPEE3D’s WarpSPEE3D machine was robust enough to operate in remote Australian bushland. The programme was extended in 2021 to verify initial results.

Throughout 2021, SPEE3D states that it has been helping train the Australian Army’s first military Additive Manufacturing Cell (AMC) technicians who specialise in the production of metal AM parts, from design, building, machining, heat-treatment, through to certification. In the remote bushland of Bradshaw Training Area in the Northern Territory, the AMC and SPEE3D recently tested the WarpSPEE3D as part of its toughest trial yet. The machine was transported in a round trip over 1200 km, over rough terrain, to operate in hot and dusty conditions for three weeks.

During the trial, the AMC produced more than a dozen different replacement parts for the M113 Armored Personnel Carrier, a vehicle that has been used by the Australian Army for over forty years. The trial aimed to prove metal AM can produce high-quality, military-grade parts that can be validated and certified for use in the field. One of the parts produced was an M113 wheel bearing cover, a part which is often damaged by trees when driven through bushland. The two-kilogram wheel bearing cover was additively manufactured in just twenty-nine minutes at a cost of $100. The team were able to additively manufacture, heat treat, machine, test and validate the parts in the field as well as redesign and fortify some parts, reducing the risk of future damage.

Byron Kennedy, SPEE3D’s CEO, commented “This is a great example of how expeditionary Metal 3D Printing can improve Defence readiness. Field trials conducted in 2020 proved SPEE3D technology was deployable. This year’s trial extension was bigger, longer, and more remote, making it the worlds’ toughest and longest metal 3D printing trial so far.”

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