ExOne announced this week that the US Department of Defense has granted it $ 1.6 million. It’s one of the largest government contracts for the Pennsylvania-based metal 3D printing company to build a portable 3D printing factory for the front line – essentially a method for troops to make broken and missing parts where they are most needed.
“For the past two years we’ve really focused on delivering our technology to government-type applications: DoD, NASA, DoE,” CEO John Hartner told TechCrunch. “Sometimes there is talk of disrupting the supply chain and achieving decentralized production. This is decentralized and deployed forward if you will. Be it an emergency, a humanitarian mission or a front for a war fighter. “
The money from the grant goes specifically into research and development as well as into the construction of the first unit.
The system combines a number of machines with a software layer designed to lower the barrier to entry to use. While some training is required, it is hoped that staff will be able to use the system on site.
“We made the products that get inside robust,” says Hartner. “There’s a software element that makes it easy to share. You start scanning. So there is a chance that you are printing from a cloud-based repository, but it might not be available for some reason. As a result, you may have a broken part that you can scan and digitally repair and print the file. “
The devices are based on binder jet printing, the core technology behind ExOne machines. The system essentially composes powder layer by layer to build up an object. ExOne expects the first system to be shipped by the third quarter of 2022. If all goes well, the parties will discuss further partnerships in the future.