In a world-first, a ‘WarpSPEE3D’ 3D metal printer has been rapidly deployed and put through its paces by the Australian Army during a field exercise in the Territory.
The successful trial demonstrated the potential for metal 3D printing technology to be deployed to the field by the ADF.
WarpSPEE3D is the world’s first large-format metal 3D printer to use patented cold spray technology that enables significantly faster and more cost-effective metal part production than traditional manufacturing. Developed by SPEE3D, the printer is capable of printing large metal parts up to 40kg at a record-breaking speed of 100 grams per minute.
The printer arrived in Darwin in early June. Just over a week after being installed at Robertson Barracks, soldiers from the 1st Combat Service Support Battalion (1 CSSB) packed up and trucked the printer out bush to take part in a three-day trial at the Mount Bundey field training area.
During the three-day trial, the WarpSPEE3D was manoeuvred to various bush locations and unloaded on different terrains. The printer was unloaded and operational – ready to print – within 30 minutes and the printer produced a variety of parts.
SPEE3D printers leverage metal cold spray technology to produce industrial quality metal parts in just minutes, rather than days or weeks. This process uses kinetic energy rather than high-power lasers and expensive gasses.
Army announced a $1.5 million investment in a pilot of SPEE3D technology in February 2020 with a 12-month trial designed to test the feasibility of deploying 3D metal printers both on base and in the field. SPEE3D partnered with the Advanced Manufacturing Alliance (AMA) and Charles Darwin University (CDU) to deliver the program with soldiers from the Australian Army 1st Brigade training in 3D printing at CDU since February.
The program aims to significantly increase the availability of unique parts to the Army compared to what the regular supply chain can provide.
“The first field deployment of WarpSPEE3D was an important milestone for SPEE3D," SPEE3D CEO, Byron Kennedy said. "While our equipment was initially designed for industrial use, this trial proved that our equipment is actually very robust and can endure harsh conditions and rough handling very well. We look forward to future exercises and continuing to learn how we best serve the Australian Army and defence industry.”
1 CSSB Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Kane Wright, agreed that the year-long trial was progressing well considering the adjustments to training.
”This phase has seen the 3D printing capability deployed to the field, alongside vital military equipment, contributing to the mission during this training cycle,” Lieutenant Colonel Wright said.
“The ability to print repair parts in an environment like this has the potential to significantly reduce our footprint and repair damaged equipment – on the spot – to get us back to our main priority.”