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US Army Learning About and Using 3D Printing to Improve Military Readiness | 3DPrint.com

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The REF Ex Lab at Bagram Airfield produced these things after Ex Lab engineers labored with Troopers to develop options to issues they encountered.

The US Army has lengthy been placing 3D printing to good use. In an article revealed within the newest version of Army AL&T Journal, senior editor Steve Stark takes a deep dive into simply how this department of the army is utilizing 3D printing, and what obstacles stand in its method.

Stark wrote that 3D printing “is a natural fit for the Army” because the army department works to improve its manufacturing applied sciences. Dr. Philip Perconti, director of the US Army Analysis Laboratory (ARL), says the know-how “is at a pivotal stage in development.”

On the opening of the brand new Superior Manufacturing, Supplies and Processes (AMMP) manufacturing innovation middle in Maryland this fall, Dr. Perconti stated, “The Army wants to be at the forefront of this advancement in technology.”

Dr. Perconti believes that cellular manufacturing of varied alternative elements and elements is on the horizon, and he’s not improper: the Navy, the Air Pressure, and the Marines are already profiting from this software.

3D printing can be utilized to enhance readiness, which is a reasonably wide-ranging class that covers every thing from buildings and repairs to logistics and sustainment. The overarching aim is to ship models out with simply the correct quantity of kit to set up a cellular unit for on-demand 3D printing.

Mike Nikodinovski, a mechanical engineer and additive skilled with the Army’s Tank Automotive Analysis, Improvement and Engineering Middle (TARDEC), defined that numerous locations across the Army, like its Analysis, Improvement and Engineering Command (RDECOM) and the Aviation and Missile Analysis, Improvement and Engineering Middle (AMRDEC), are at present enhancing readiness, and rushing up the sustainment course of, by experimenting with the 3D printing of plastic and metallic elements.

“We’ve been repairing parts for the M1 Abrams. … We’ve done projects cross-Army and with the Marine Corps where we printed things like impeller fans. A lot of the things we’ve been doing are just basic one-for-one replacement,” Nikodinovski stated. “What can you do with additive for a part that’s traditionally manufactured? A lot of that gets at sustainment, and that’s what we’re trying to stand up at Rock Island—give them the capabilities so they can print metal parts, especially if you want … long-term procurement for parts where you only need a couple, vendors are no longer in business and it doesn’t make a lot of sense to spend a lot of money to set up tooling. Can additive be used to supplement the sustainment process, where I can just, say, print three parts and save all the time it would take to find vendors or set up the tooling?”

A 3D printed 90° pressure aid offset connector, which was designed and fabricated by REF engineers at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan to forestall cables from breaking when hooked up to a bit of kit.

Additive manufacturing could be very totally different from subtractive manufacturing, which signifies that crucial coaching is concerned.

“That’s a huge undertaking. We need to not only train the people who are going to touch and run the machines, but train the troops and the engineers on the capabilities of and how to design for AM,” defined Edward Flinn, the Director of Superior Manufacturing at Rock Island Arsenal.

“You’ve got to train the Soldier on the capabilities of the technology along with how to actually use the machine. Then there’s how to teach the design community themselves the benefits of additive so they can start designing for it.”

Ryan Muzii, REF help engineer, cuts metallic for a venture.

Megan Krieger, a mechanical engineer on the Army’s Engineer Analysis and Improvement Middle (ERDC), defined that using makerspaces within the MWRs (morale, welfare, and recreation amenities) at libraries is a useful method to get army personnel extra accustomed to 3D printing. She defined that this manner, “if people are passionate about making things, they’ll learn it a lot better than if they’re just thrown into it.”

Outdoors of truly studying how to use the know-how, the Army can also be working to develop new supplies and design instruments for 3D printing.

Dr. William Benard, senior marketing campaign scientist in supplies improvement with ARL in Maryland, stated, “The Army’s near-term efforts are looking at readiness, and in research, one of the simpler things is to just design new materials that are easier to print with, more reliable to print with, [the] properties are well understood—that kind of thing as a substitute, sort of a more direct approach to support of existing parts.

“One of the areas of investment that ARL is making to support this, and I know others in the RDECOM community are looking at it as well, is, really, new design tools for additive.”

The Army additionally wants to decide the precise economics of adopting 3D printing. Whereas value is much less of an element once you’re up towards a decent deadline, this reverses when manufacturing reproducibility and value are extra essential in a venture. Further elements embrace how important the necessity for the half is, how shortly developments are being made, what else will depend on the actual challenge, and the place precisely the Army is spending cash.

Tim Phillis, expeditionary additive manufacturing venture officer for RDECOM’s Armament Analysis, Improvement Engineering Middle’s Speedy Fabrication by way of Additive Manufacturing on the Battlefield (R-FAB), defined, “We as scientists and engineers can talk about material properties and print bed temperatures and print heads and all this kind of stuff, but the senior leadership is looking at, ‘So what? How does this technology improve readiness? How can I keep systems and Soldiers ready to go?’ And that’s what we’re learning.”

Troopers used R-FAB throughout a Pacific Pathways train in 2017 to print a digital camera lens cowl for a Stryker car in 4 hours. [US Army photo]

Stark wrote that the Army is usually “focusing its efforts on its modernization priorities,” and leaving additional improvement up to academia and business. If our army needs to use 3D printing for real-world purposes, this improvement wants to velocity up – these elements should rise up underneath loads of stress.

Dr. Aura Gimm, who was managing the Army’s MIT-affiliated analysis middle program on the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies on the time of her interview, stated, “It’s one thing to create decorative parts, but it’s something else if you’re trying to create a loadbearing or actuating parts that could fail.

“The standardization and making sure that we have metrology or the metrics to test and evaluate these parts is going to be quite critical, for [items made with additive] to be actually deployable in the field. Because one thing that we don’t want is to have these parts … not work as expected.”

Dr. Perconti concurred:

“Ultimately, the goal for us is to enable qualified components that are indistinguishable from those they replace. Remember, when you take a part out of a weapon system and replace it with an additive manufactured part, you’re putting lives on the line if that part is not fully capable. So we have to be very sure that whatever we do, we understand the science, we understand the manufacturing, and we understand that we are delivering qualified parts for our warfighters.”

UH-60A/L Black Hawk Helicopter [Image: Military.com]

For instance, AMRDEC has been working with Basic Electrical Co. to 3D print elements for the T700 motor, which powers each the Apache and Black Hawk helicopters. Nevertheless, these motor elements usually are not in use, as they haven’t but been examined and and certified on the Army’s requirements. Kathy Olson, additive manufacturing lead within the Manufacturing Science and Know-how Division of the Army’s Manufacturing Know-how program at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, stated this undertaking is “more of a knowledge transition” to present that it’s potential to 3D print the elements with laser powder mattress fusion.

So as to qualify 3D printed elements for Army use, the supplies should first be certified.

“Then you have to qualify your machine and make sure it’s producing repeatable parts, and then qualify the process for the part that you’re building, because you’ll have likely different parameter sets for your different geometries for the different parts [that] you’re going to build,” Olson defined.

“It’s not like you can just press a button and go. There’s a lot of engineering involved on both sides of it. Even the design of your build-layout is going to involve some iteration of getting your layout just such that the part prints correctly.”

One strong software for Army 3D printing is tooling, as modifications on this course of don’t want any engineering modifications.

Dr. Patrick Fowler, proper, former lead engineer of the Ex Lab in Afghanistan, works with a Soldier on an concept for a materiel answer.

“You can get quick turnaround on tooling,” Flinn defined. “The design process takes place, but the manufacturing can take place in days instead of weeks…For prototyping or for mainstream manufacturing, I can have a tool made [additively] and up and running in 24 hours.”

If utilized appropriately, 3D printing will permit troopers deployed everywhere in the world to make virtually something they want within the area.

“What missions can we solve? We’re finding all kinds of things,” stated Phillis. “Humvees are being dead-lined because they don’t have gas caps. Or the gas cap breaks. When they order it, they’ve got to sit there for 30 days or 45 days or however long it takes to get that through the supply system.

“If we can produce it in a couple of hours, now we’ve got a truck that’s ready for use while we’re waiting for the supply system to catch up.”

Talk about this and different 3D printing subjects at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your ideas under.

[Images: US Army photos by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs, unless otherwise noted]

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