The U.S. Department of Defense Awards ExOne Contract to Develop Military 3D Printing Factory Pod
The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has awarded ExOne with a contract to develop a fully operational 3D printing factory pod in a shipping container. Since the $1.6 million contract was awarded in August last year, ExOne has already commenced the development stage of the project. ExOne is a leading manufacturer of industrial sand and metal 3D printers. Relying on binder jetting technology, ExOne’s 3D printers are currently able to produce parts in over twenty different metal, ceramic, and composite materials.
With this project, ExOne endeavors to improve the ruggedness of their commercially available printers in order to make them compatible with a wider range of operating conditions and military applications, while still keeping a high standard of quality and precision in final parts. The company are also in the process of adapting their technology for the factory pod in order to make it simpler to use in the field and easily operable by users with minimal technical knowledge. ExOne are currently developing an upgraded version of its current commercial 3D printer with a unique body style and other features in order to make it a more rugged, military-grade product.
John Hartner, CEO of ExOne commented on the company’s contract: “Binder jet 3D printing is a critical manufacturing technology for military use because of its speed, flexibility of materials, and ease of use. We’re excited to collaborate with the U.S. Department of Defense and other partners to make our 3D printers more rugged for the military, which will also benefit our other manufacturing customers. Most importantly, we know that years from now, our technology will play an important role in filling critical needs quickly.”
The factory pod will be housed in a shipping container up to 40 feet long, and will be deployable via land, sea and air. The main purpose of the pod will be to manufacture supporting parts for remote operations such as disaster relief and war theatres. It would not only reduce costs, but also significantly reduce downtime in a crisis from weeks or months, to just a few days as it would enable military personnel to 3D print parts on-site, whenever they were needed. ExOne hope to allow replacement parts to be printed in under 48 hours, a substantial decrease from the 4-6 week waiting time for parts created by machine tooling. The capability of 3D printing to significantly reduce cost and time has been well recognized by the U.S. military. The Department of Defense has been increasingly turning to 3D printing for manufacturing solutions. This is particularly evident in the Navy which, in the past year, has incorporated Xerox’s ElemX as well as patented a biodegradable 3D printed marine material. As well as in the U.S. Air Force, which has partnerships with multiple leading AM manufacturers and which uses 3D printing for the production of spare parts for its aircraft.
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