3D Systems reports that it has completed a test print on what it says will be the world’s largest, fastest powder metal 3D printer.

The 9-laser, 1m x 1m x 600mm printer will be installed in the Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) Army Research Laboratory (ARL) to make parts for long-range munitions, combat vehicles, helicopters, air and missile defense capabilities, the company said.

It uses a selective powder deposition process which limits the amount of material needed to produce very large parts by depositing the material only where it is needed in the build – accelerating time-to-final part and reducing material cost, according to 3D Systems. The build chamber also reportedly includes a heated build plate to reduce thermal stress and also improve deposition quality during the build. Each of the printer’s nine lasers has its own melt pool monitoring system for improved quality control. 

The US$15 million additive manufacturing (AM) also uses the company’s inerting process which it says is faster and consumes at least ten times less argon than conventional metal 3D printers. The inerting process can also reduce the oxygen level during processing to below 25 ppm compared to the 500-1,000 ppm in most conventional metal 3D printers.

‘When we embarked on this project, we needed a faster way to produce critical components for major ground combat subsystems,’ said Stephanie Koch, ARL's advanced manufacturing, materials, and processes program manager. ‘The progress that has been made on this project to date is monumental. We look forward to the coming months as we progress to a full-scale production solution that will enable innovative new capabilities for transformational overmatch.’

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.