DefenseMetal Additive Manufacturing

Australian Army trials WarpSPEE3D metal 3D printer in extreme heat

The system was field tested in the heat and humidity of Australia's Northern Territory

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Earlier this year, Australia-based metal 3D printing company SPEE3D was enlisted as part of a 12-month pilot trial in cooperation with the Australian Army and Charles Darwin University (CDU) to train local soldiers in the art of additive manufacturing. Now, roughly six months in, the partners have made notable headway with the WarpSPEE3D system.

Following a world-first field trial this past June, SPEE3D and the Australian Army have deployed a WarpSPEE3D 3D metal printer as part of another two-week field exercise, this time in the extreme heat and humidity of the Northern Territory in Australia. The unique 3D printer is a large-format metal AM system based on a patented cold-spray technology, which enables faster print rates and more cost-effective production compared to conventional methods. Pioneered by SPEE3D, the system is capable of printing metal parts weighing up to 40 kg at a rate of 100 grams per minute.

Australian Army WarpSPEE3D
Australian Army Lance Corporal Sean Barton (right) with Matthew Harbidge, a printing engineer from SPEE3D, during Exercise Buffalo Run at Mount Bundey Training Area, NT. (Photo: Australian Department of Defence)

Though the WarpSPEE3D 3D printer was first deployed in June for field tests, it has since undergone a number of upgrades and modifications. The goal of this most recent field test was to evaluate the printer’s performance in extreme temperatures and conditions. In fact, the machine was tested in temperatures of up to 38 degrees Celsius and in environments with up to 80% humidity.

“This second field deployment proves our technology is a genuine solution for expeditionary metal 3D printing,” said SPEE3D CEO Byron Kennedy. “This two-week trial demonstrates the WarpSPEE3D is a robust workhorse that is capable of printing real parts and solving real problems in the field. It also proves that soldiers can take control of the whole workflow of creating the spare parts they need, from design to printing and post-processing, right here where they need them.”

The WarpSPEE3D system is capable of functioning in these arduous field locations largely because of its reliance on kinetic energy. That is, instead of using high-power lasers and costly gases, the cold spray technology uses the sheer kinetic energy of particles hitting each other at high speeds, which causes them to bind together. Interestingly, SPEE3D also developed a coating of ACTIVAT3D copper, a material that was proven to kill 96% of SARS-CoV-2 within two hours of contact, which could be sprayed onto metal surfaces.

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Tess Boissonneault

Tess Boissonneault is a Montreal-based content writer and editor with five years of experience covering the additive manufacturing world. She has a particular interest in amplifying the voices of women working within the industry and is an avid follower of the ever-evolving AM sector. Tess holds a master's degree in Media Studies from the University of Amsterdam.

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