The Bundeswehr, which is repeatedly criticized for its poor state of equipment, is now providing spare parts on site as a test Frigate Saxony here. In a test lasting several days on the North Sea, it is to be checked whether machine and equipment parts produced by FDM printing can also be produced in sufficient quality under the special conditions of a warship.
Manufacturing parts using 3D printing, which is already routine in the automotive and railway industries as well as in aerospace (e.g. at Airbus), is much more difficult on ships because of the conditions prevailing there: the salt content of the air and the ship movements as well Vibrations from the drive often have a disruptive effect. On the other hand, using the ships, which are very powerful with more than 53,000 HP, is extremely expensive for the German Armed Forces. Aborting a mission and prematurely returning to the supply of spare parts due to a lack of spare parts would drastically increase this.
The U.S. Navy recently installed its first 3D printer aboard one of its vessels in a program designed to test the capabilities of the technology and its potential contribution to enhancing maintenance aboard active duty vessels. The Navy joins with the commercial shipping industry which has also been looking at the capabilities of 3D printing and tested the first parts for ships made with the technology.
The 3D printing system was recently placed aboard the USS Essex, a Wasp-class Landing Helicopter Dock currently based at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Commissioned in 1992, the amphibious assault ship is testing the technology while it is currently participating in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022 training exercise.
“Having this printer aboard will essentially accelerate, enhance, and increase our warfighting readiness,” said Lt. Cmdr. Nicolas Batista, the Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department (AIMD) officer aboard the Essex. “The capabilities of the 3D printer will enable Essex to become more self-sufficient.”
The US Air Force (USAF) has invested in a 3D printer capable of producing spare parts for its Strategic Automated Command Control System (SACCS).
When a supplier stopped manufacturing a red fault indicator lens cap to cover the lights on the SACCS system, the USAF purchased a 3D printer to manufacture its own replacement. By leveraging the technology to produce the first cap, the USAF recovered the cost of the printer and scanner and saved more than $4,000.
“This strategy is saving the Department of Defense thousands of dollars each time the part fails,” said Col. Brian Golden, National Airborne Operations Center and 595th Command and Control Group Commander.
Swedish aerospace and defense company Saab has successfully conducted a flight test that has shown how additive manufacturing can be used to repair battlefield damage on its Gripen fighters.
The test flight, which took place at Saab’s facilities in Linköping, Sweden on March 19 marks the first time an exterior 3D-printed part has been flown on a Gripen, rather than internal 3D-printed components.
The Gripen was fitted with a replacement hatch that had been 3D-printed using additive manufacturing, using a nylon polymer called PA2200.
The project is a step towards 3D-printed spares being used for rapid repairs to fighter aircraft that have sustained damage while deployed on remote operations, thereby gaining a vital time-saving advantage, said Saab.
The maritime sector is one of the more overlooked segments in 3D printing, with only a handful of companies really taking advantage of the opportunities there. A new business involved in 3D printing for naval uses has made itself known, Austal Australia, who, along with its partners, AML3D (ASX:AML) and Western Australia’s Curtin University, has 3D printed an aluminum personnel recovery davit. The device has been verified by DNV, the world’s largest classification society at its Global Additive Manufacturing Technology Centre of Excellence in Singapore.
According to international and naval specifications, Austal, AML3D and Curtin University produced a three-meter-long crane, also known as a davit, designed for personnel recovery. The assembly was then tested to support over two times its intended working load. This was followed by non-destructive and destructive testing. The testing process included microanalysis of the microstructure of the aluminum parts, with mechanical and corrosion properties compared to those of traditional marine grade materials.
French soldiers deployed to Operation Barkhane in the Sahel have been experimenting for several months with 3D printers to make spare parts at their base in Mali.
According to a Ministry of the Armed Forces release, Desert Tactical Group – Logistics “Charentes” is responsible for testing the feasibility of using the two 3D printers at the large base in Gao to make components.
In general, the specialists at the base a tasked to produce replacements for broken components.
They follow a familiar process – first modelling the part on a computer and then printing, testing, iterating and refining where necessary.
Small parts can be printed in minutes and more complex projects within hours, saving time and effort in transporting equipment to the relatively remote base in central Mali.
Peacekeeping missions often take place at remote locations, requiring the army to have a large supply of spare parts on site to keep everything running. Dutch researcher Bram Westerweel comes to the conclusion that taking a 3D printer on a mission to print parts can save hundreds of thousands of euros and, at the same time, reduce the downtime of defense equipment. The savings on operational costs sometimes total more than half. The findings of Westerweel, who received his Ph.D. yesterday, can also be applied to industries with remote locations, such as the offshore industry.
Quick return on investment
The army’s systems have many thousands of types of spare parts. Based on his research, Westerweel expects that a total of 10-20 percent of the components of the armed forces can be made by additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing. The total savings by 3D printing on relatively large peacekeeping missions like the ones in Mali and Sudan, could then run up to hundreds of thousands. The printer itself costs a one-off €25,000, making for a quick return on investment. The Dutch army is already experimenting with such a printer in Mali.
FORT MEADE, Md. — As 3D printing increases both in the field and at depots, the Army’s Center of Excellence for Additive and Advanced Manufacturing is slated to reach initial operating capability this year at Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois.
Lt. Gen. Aundre Piggee, the Army’s deputy chief of staff, G-4, outlined the Army’s current 3D printing capabilities at the 2019 Military Additive Manufacturing Summit and Technology Showcase Feb. 6, in Tampa, Florida.
At the summit, defense, academia, and industry officials were privy to the latest additive manufacturing technologies, event officials said. The Army will leverage these improved 3D printing capabilities to bolster equipment readiness and reduce logistics burdens, Piggee said.
MCAS Iwakuni engineers have devised two products that reduce the time it takes to repair the fighter jets, saving costs for the U.S. Department of Defense. The products help with the maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) of the fighter jets, covering all tasks carried out to ensure the airworthiness of an flight vehicle.
The 3D printed products include an engine ship kit, designed by the Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 12 (MALS 12), and a plastic ring kit that helps the maintenance of the bearings on the F/A-18’s Gatling gun.