Australian soldiers to be trained in 3D printing

Photo: SPEE3D

The Australian Army has received $1.5 million to commence a 12-month pilot trial of a new metal ­­3D printing technology in order to modernise and enhance the resilience of the ADF’s supply chains.

“This will reduce the requirement for our soldiers to deploy with bulky repair parts, redefining how logistics are deployed on the future battlefield,” the Minister for Defence Industry, Melissa Price, announced on Monday.

“It’s a great example of how Australian industry is at the forefront of global innovation, and providing unique solutions to filling capability gaps.”

Twenty Darwin-based soldiers will be trained in advanced additive manufacturing and taught how to design and print parts using the WarpSPEE3D 3D metal printer, a new technology developed in partnership with SPEE3D and Charles Darwin University (CDU), which will be installed on-base and deployed in the field for multiple Army exercises.

SPEE3D is an Australian manufacturer of metal-based additive manufacturing technology, which together with CDU formed the Advanced Manufacturing Alliance (AMA) in 2017. AMA will train soldiers in the skills they need to design and print parts from CAD software to printer operation, part post-processing, testing and certification.

SPEE3D printers make metal parts by leveraging metal cold spray technology to produce industrial quality metal parts in just minutes, rather than days or weeks. This process harnesses the power of kinetic energy, rather than relying on high-power lasers and expensive gasses, allowing 3D metal printing in the field, at affordable costs. The program aims to significantly increase parts available to the Army compared to what the regular supply chain can provide.

“This Army program, in parallel with a similar project happening with The Royal Australian Navy, will enable the Australian Defence Force to grow our sovereign capability and lead the world in the field of additive manufacturing,” SPEE3D CEO, Byron Kennedy, said.

Commanding Officer 1 CSSB, Lieutenant Colonel Kane Wright, said that the initiative demonstrates how Army is keeping up with the accelerated nature of warfare.

“This partnership with CDU and SPEE3D shows that we as an army are looking to the future and embracing advanced technologies to speed up our processes,” Wright said.

“At maturity we see it becoming an essential enabler that will redefine how logistics is employed to support our dependencies on the future battlefield.”

The printer harnesses the power of kinetic energy to fabricate parts in a safe and environmentally friendly manner, allowing 3D metal printing in the field.

“This will reduce the requirement to deploy with bulky holdings of multiple repair parts, hence increasing mobility and survivability and reducing time waiting for new parts to create greater resilience in the supply chain,” Wright said.

The Royal Australian Navy launched a similar Trial in November 2019 together with SPEE3D and CDU, to streamline the maintenance of patrol vessels.