UK and US Army Collaborate Using 3D Printing

Published on November 1, 2022 by Claire S.

The UK and US army have recently collaborated in the use of 3D printing to improve battlefield capabilities, as part of what is known as Project Convergence. This is the US army’s project of experimentation with speed, range, and decision dominance through the use of technologies including additive manufacturing. 

For this recent collaboration, the British Army were able to contribute towards the manufacture of replacement parts for the US army using a 3D printer. As British Army officer Maj. Alex Shand explained, this was the first time that this was possible. He described the functionality thus:

‘it shows how a multinational partner could potentially assist the U.S. military in making rapid equipment repairs on the battlefield.The increased flexibility could prove beneficial if a nearby unit lacked a 3D printer, for example, or if supply chain disruptions were preventing the timely delivery of missing parts’.

Project Convergence 2022

Soldiers as part of Project Convergence UK/US training. Photo credit: Army’s Future Command

In terms of the use of 3D printing itself, the technology has often been claimed to result in faster, more efficient results which are easily scalable; very useful in this army context. In a military purpose, the requirement is a mixture of high volume low readiness parts (such as prototypes) and some low-volume high-precision parts (such as specific parts for niche machinery or equipment). Therefore, 3D printing is a useful method to meet both aims in a cost-saving manner as production can be scaled up or down with relative ease. Furthermore, metal 3D printing is useful for the repair of broken or damaged parts- something essential for parts which are regularly under pressure due to use in combat.

Of course, international military collaboration is important for research and development of technologies and equipment. Furthermore, this is not the first time that 3D printing has been used for this purpose. The largest metal 3D printer in the world was commissioned by the US army for the production of hulls for combat vehicles.More recently, the US Navy opened an Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence in Virginia, where they hope to train young engineers on 3d printing technologies and to develop the use of the processes in order to scale them for big picture use. Over in the UK, the RAF recently opened an AM Center for Innovation where they will 3D print metal parts for repairs and replacements. It is clear that both the US and UK army wish to expand their use of 3D printing to improve supply chains and battlefield capabilities. 

Project Convergence US/UK army 3D printing

Aside from 3D printing, Project Convergence includes the training UK and US army troops in the field. Photo credit: National Interest Organization

You can find more information on the project HERE. What do you think of this joint venture between the UK and US army? Let us know in a comment below or on our LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter pages! Don’t forget to sign up for our free weekly Newsletter here, the latest 3D printing news straight to your inbox! You can also find all our videos on our YouTube channel.

*Cover Photo Credits: U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Thiem Huynh

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