The US Combat Capabilities Development Command Army Research Laboratory (ARL) has awarded a contract to 3D Systems to develop a 3D printer to add significant capabilities to the supply chain.

3D Systems will work with the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS) to create ‘the world’s largest, fastest, most precise metal 3D printer’.

The proposed printer will bring new additive manufacturing to transform supply chains associated with long-range munitions, next-generation combat vehicles, helicopters, and air and missile defence capabilities.

Under the $15m contract, 3D Systems and NCMS will work in partnership with ARL and the Advanced Manufacturing, Materials, and Processes (AMMP) Program.

The project is in line with the US Army’s Additive Manufacturing Implementation Plan that involves the use of AM to refurbish worn parts and create custom tools.

The service intends to install the proposed 3D printer in its depots and labs.

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By GlobalData

Thereafter, the AM technology will be made available to aerospace and defence suppliers to support the development of futuristic army platforms.

According to 3D Systems, the printer will have the ability to enable more efficient design and production of long-term durable parts.

Additionally, the technology will reduce material usage and improve time to market for parts going into the field.

Pursuant to the requirements of ARL, the planned printer will have a built envelope of 1,000mm × 1,000mm × 600mm.

ARL Science of Additive Manufacturing for Next Generation Munitions programme manager Dr Joseph South said: “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.

“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.”

The contract will also allow 3D Systems to look at the possibility of integrating the new technologies and processes into its existing portfolio of 3D printer technologies.

3D Systems co-founder and chief technology officer Chuck Hull said: “Through this project, we’re looking forward to delivering a working manufacturing system like no other.

“ARL has already realised 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.”