3D Systems and the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS) have been awarded a US$15 million contract by the Combat Capabilities Development Command Army Research Laboratory (ARL) to create what they say will be the ‘world’s largest, fastest, and most precise metal 3D printer’. The machine will be used for long-range munitions, combat vehicles, helicopters, and air and missile defense applications, the company said. 

According to the US Army, it already uses additive manufacturing (AM) to refurbish worn parts and create custom tools. Plans are to develop large-scale systems for installation in its depots and labs. Subsequently, 3D Systems and its partners also aim to make the new 3D printer technology available to aerospace and defense suppliers.

The printer’s build envelope is planned to be 1000 mm x 1000 mm x 600 mm, with ability to build minimum wall thickness of 100 µm and layer thickness of 30 µm. This is a significant increase over current large-scale metal 3D printers with a build envelope of 500 mm x 500 mm x 500 mm, 3D Systems said.

'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,’ said Dr Joseph South, ARL program manager. 

3D Systems also plans to integrate the new technologies and processes into its existing range of 3D printers.

This story uses material from 3D Systems, with editorial changes made by Materials Today. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of Elsevier.