International defense company, Babcock, has manufactured and fitted what are believed to be the first 3D printed metal parts to be used across the British Army’s active armored fleets. The steel components were created specifically to tackle the growing challenges of technical and commercial obsolescence, and were fitted onto in-service fleets, Titan, and Trojan vehicles – forming part of the periscope system to ensure Army crews have visibility of their immediate surroundings.
This milestone is part of Babcock’s longer-term global advanced manufacturing investment program – which is focused on developing the ability to print parts anywhere in the world, when needed. The program could include 3D printers onboard vessels at sea, or at military sites abroad.
“This investment in technology allows us to support our customers in a completely different way, at home and deployed on operations. If a component is required and cannot be sourced, we can now find a way to make it,” said Tom Newman, Land Chief Executive at Babcock. “As we look to the future of Equipment Support, Additive Manufacturing has significant implications for our customers, and I am delighted Babcock is leading the way in developing this capability.”
“This marks a major milestone in finding solutions for obsolete parts and in tackling resilience in the supply chain – some of the biggest challenges engineering and manufacturing businesses like ours are facing. We’re using disruptive technologies to address that,” said Dr. Richard Drake, Chief Technology Officer at Babcock. “For us, this is part of a growing investment program around advanced and additive manufacturing, which we can now progress to other areas of our business and that is hugely exciting for Babcock.”
“The fitting of this additively manufactured part represents a key milestone for Defense and the Army. Additive has disrupted industry manufacturing processes and created an agile alternative to traditional mass manufacturing. Working together with Babcock we have unlocked a pathway to manufacture certified parts,” said Brigadier Phil Prosser, CBE, Assistant Chief of Staff for Equipment, at HQ Field Army. “My role in the Field Army is to deliver safe, supported, available, and ready equipment to meet Field Army current and future demand to operate, fight, and win wars on land. This ability to rapidly manufacture parts will allow our equipment to rapidly deploy on operations, and to stay in the fight for longer. This is battle-winning activity and we are committed to this collaboration and will continue to learn at this impressive pace.”
In February, Babcock launched its technology partnership with Plymouth Science Park and unveiled a new innovation center focused on additive manufacturing techniques. The result of this is that the process to print parts that are obsolete, or are required in low quantities – such as the periscope clamp – can now be completed in days instead of months. Digital solutions such as additive manufacturing are becoming increasingly significant in the management of complex, critical, legacy, and low-volume assets.
“We won’t stop here. We are now working towards a future where the additive techniques and processes we are putting into place now; will be readily available across any part of the MOD we support,” added Dr. Richard Drake.
Babcock is responsible for the fleet management of over 50,000 vehicles for the British Army – ranging from quad bikes and generators to main battle tanks, and weapons – from pistols to in-direct artillery.