3D Systems has been awarded a $15 million contract by the Combat Capabilities Development Command Army Research Laboratory, also known as ARL, to create the world’s largest, fastest, most precise metal 3D printer. This printer will revolutionize key supply chains associated with long-range munitions, next-generation combat vehicles, helicopters, and air and missile defense capabilities. 3D Systems and the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS) were awarded funding to create this printer and will partner with ARL and the Advanced Manufacturing, Materials, and Processes (AMMP) Program to advance the leadership and innovation of the world’s strongest military.
According to the U.S. Army Additive Manufacturing Implementation Plan, the Army has been using additive manufacturing (AM) for two decades to refurbish worn parts and create custom tools. Once developed, the Army will leverage its manufacturing experience by placing the new large-scale systems in its depots and labs. Subsequently, 3D Systems and its partners plan to make the new 3D printer technology available to leading aerospace and defense suppliers for development of futuristic Army platforms.
In each of these cases, the planned printer’s unprecedented large scale and precision will enable more efficient design and production of long-term durable parts with reduced material usage, as well as faster time to market with parts going into the field. The printer’s build envelope is planned to be 1000mm x 1000mm x 600mm, with ability to build minimum wall thickness of 100µm and layer thickness of 30µm. This is a significant increase over current large-scale metal 3D printers with a build envelope of 500mm x 500mm x 500mm.
“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,” said 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.”
In addition to bringing a new metal AM solution to the Army, 3D Systems will also evaluate the feasibility of integrating the new technologies and processes into its existing portfolio of 3D printer technologies.
“Through this project, we’re looking forward to delivering a working manufacturing system like no other,” said Chuck Hull, Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer, 3D Systems. “From the early years of 3D Systems, our desire to innovate has been fueled 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 realized 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,” said Lisa Strama, president 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.”
Co-founded by industry pioneer, Chuck Hull, who patented stereolithography in 1986, 3D Systems has a broad portfolio of polymer and metal as well as 3D printing tools. Recently, the company expanded its platform-centric approach by announcing the DMP Factory 500, DMP Factory 350 and DMP Flex 350 in collaboration with GF Machining Solutions. These solutions are some of the first to combine scalable additive and subtractive technologies.