For orders of modular 3D printing containers
Defense Logistics Agency ordered a 3D printing factory in a shipping container.
The sturdy 3D printing vessel is currently under development and is up to 40 feet long. It is placed in a standard 40-foot container so it can be used right in the field to manufacture parts to support battlefield operations, disaster relief, or other long-range missions.
With a $ 1.6 million contract with ExOne, DLA plans to use the company’s military-grade 3D printer to make products or tools from over 20 metal, ceramic, and other powder materials.
ExOne’s binder jet 3D printing is an additive manufacturing (AM) process that uses an industrial print head to convert powdered materials into precision parts to alternate layers of a liquid binder and powder particles.
Ideally, military personnel could use the 3D printing container to convert a digital file of a broken or damaged part into a finished product in less than 48 hours, compared to the four to six weeks it currently takes to machine a new part, so ExOne officials said. The process would also reduce waste and eliminate the need to bring expensive inventory to the field.
Instead of storing spare parts shelves in a warehouse, a digital library of 3D designs can be electronically stored. If a digital file is not available for older parts, the original item can easily be 3D scanned and printed. In addition, service members can quickly design or modify parts and tools to solve unique problems.
The pod contains a 3D scanner and prep station, a robust 3D printer made of metal and ceramic, a curing oven, a 3D printer made of fiber-reinforced plastic and a compression molding station. ExOne also offers software and training so that the pod can be used with minimal technical knowledge.
3D printing is increasingly playing a key role for the military. According to the Department of Defense’s additive manufacturing strategy published in January, it is “a powerful tool to enable innovation and modernization of defense systems, support readiness and improve readiness for warfighters”.
Some future additive manufacturing equipment has been tested, including Marine Corp.’s X-Fab, a self-contained 20 x 20 foot portable shelter with 3D printers, a scanner, and a computer-aided design software system. the AM Lab on board the USS Stennis, from which antenna parts and medical devices were made; and the Army’s rapid fabrication via AM on the battlefield, a 24 x 20 foot work area with five 3D printers.
To accelerate development of the rugged 3D printing vessel for DLA, ExOne is partnering with Dynovas Inc., which specializes in materials engineering, composite manufacturing, and DOD weapon systems, and Applied Composites, a provider of complex composite parts, assemblies, engineering and machine tools , the aerospace, defense and space systems markets work together.
“Binder-Jet 3D printing is an important manufacturing technology for military applications because of its speed, material flexibility and ease of use,” said John Hartner, CEO of ExOne. “We’re excited to be working with the Department of Defense and other partners to make our military 3D printers more robust, which will benefit our other manufacturing customers as well. Above all, we know that in a few years’ time our technology will play an important role in quickly meeting critical requirements. “
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