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U.S. Army Turns to 3D Printing for Mission-critical Provides

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No trade was immune from the provision chain disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Manufacturing facility closures, border delays, uncooked supplies shortages, and manufacturing backlogs have impacted all the pieces from healthcare and development to manufacturing and know-how.

A survey performed by McKinsey discovered that, in response to the pandemic, 93% of senior supply-chain executives deliberate to make their provide chains extra versatile, agile, and resilient. Mitigating towards future disruptions and thus making certain long-term provide chain stability is vital, however what occurs when the sources wanted within the right here and now are unattainable?

Within the early months of the pandemic, 3D printing, also referred to as additive manufacturing, addressed a number of medical provide chain challenges. Now, amid ongoing disruptions, the U.S. navy is ramping up its utilization of 3D printing to accumulate mission-critical components.

The Rise of 3D Printing within the U.S. Army

In February of this yr, the Division of Protection (DoD) launched an evaluation of defense-critical provide chains. The report advisable elevated use of 3D printing to drive mission success, recommendation the U.S. navy is already performing upon.

The Arsenal Additive Manufacturing Middle of Excellence in Rock Island, for instance, is dwelling to a big assortment of 3D printing tools. In January, the power introduced it was anticipating a second steel 3D printer, which can leverage high-speed steel fabrication know-how to shortly print instruments and spare components. Extra just lately in June, arsenal revealed it should quickly be dwelling to the world’s largest 3D steel printer, the Jointless Hull Massive Format Instrument. The printer might be able to printing steel 30 ft lengthy, 20 ft extensive, and 12 ft excessive.

It was introduced final yr that 3D printer producer ExOne had gained a contract with the DoD to develop a 40-ft lengthy moveable unit, which might be deployed to frontlines by way of land, sea, and air. Members of the navy will have the ability to 3D print a digital file of a damaged or broken half and procure a completed product in lower than 48 hours.

Robert Gold, director of engineering enterprise at DoD mentioned, “additive manufacturing gives DoD unprecedented provide chain agility whereas enabling our builders to maintain technological dominance for our Warfighters.”

Right here’s how these sorts of 3D-printing applied sciences are being utilized.

Elements and Components

Supplying 3D-printing tools to frontlines allows the navy to accumulate important merchandise and elements effectively, cost-effectively, and on-demand. Within the occasion of a significant disaster or tools breakdown, downtime might be lowered from a number of weeks or months to a matter of days. It additionally means navy bases, ships, and plane needn’t retailer an entire lot of extra stock, as personnel can merely print what they want, after they want it.

Simply final month, it was reported that one of many U.S. Navy’s largest warships was utilizing a 3D printer to produce alternative components for drones.

After all, 3D printing isn’t completely benefitting navy operations on the entrance line. With the data that a number of suppliers are struggling to satisfy the rising demand for submarine components, the U.S. Navy determined to pair them up with 3D printing corporations. It’s hoped this may relieve a few of the strain on single-source suppliers and speed up manufacturing.

As talked about, driving effectivity is a core good thing about 3D printing. In January, Joint Base Langley-Eustis efficiently printed a alternative flame arrestor cap for a high-lift (vertical-extension platform for refueling operations) that had been inactive for nearly a yr.

Medical Provides

Within the navy, fast entry to correct medical provides, akin to blood, can imply the distinction between life and dying. Ideally, an injured civilian or soldier who requires a life-saving blood transfusion might be transported to a safe medical facility. However that isn’t all the time potential in the midst of a conflict zone.

With this in thoughts, the Delta Improvement Workforce, supported by Xometry’s digital manufacturing platform., has developed a compact blood refrigeration unit known as the APRU. Injection molding, 3D printing, and sheet steel slicing are used to develop the mannequin that may face up to quite a lot of environmental hazards.

These items are already being utilized by a number of navy branches and deal with lots of the challenges related to offering blood transfusions in distant areas. This contains entry to adequate quantities of blood and the means to maintain it correctly refrigerated. The design is sturdy, can face up to being dropped from a aircraft, is heat-resistant, and can keep cool for as much as 4 days.


Additive manufacturing can also be being utilized in numerous facets of navy infrastructure.

Indiana Expertise and Manufacturing Corporations ITAMCO (ITAMCO), for instance, have developed a 3D-printed runway for navy expeditionary airfields. German firm EOS used its M290 3D printer to supply runway mats that may be put in on weaker floor surfaces, permitting navy plane to land and take off.

In the meantime, 3D printer firm Icon has developed a 9500-pound, 46.5-foot-wide machine known as Vulcan to 3D print total military barracks. Over the subsequent 10 months, three 5,700-square-foot barracks might be constructed at Fort Bliss, Texas. Leveraging 3D printing for the development of military barracks will get monetary savings, time, and labor and, in time, may be used to ascertain U.S. navy housing all over the world.

Picture Credit score: Markforged

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