U.S. Army to Commission Giant Metal 3D Printer

June 3, 2021


ASTRO-metal-3d-printer-army-jointless-hullThe U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, known as DEVCOM, and its Army Ground Vehicle Systems Center (GVSC) plans to build (reportedly) the world’s largest metal 3D printer, for printing large parts for military ground vehicles. Called the Jointless Hull project, the effort is being coordinated and led by prime contractor Applied Science and Technology Research Organization (ASTRO) America, Bethesda, MD, which will work together with subcontractors Ingersoll Machine Tool, Siemens, and Meld Manufacturing to manufacture the hull-scale machine.

The 3D metal printer, expected to take 14 months to complete and which will be installed at Rock Island (IL) Arsenal--Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center, will have the capability to print parts to 30 ft. long, 20 ft. wide and 12 ft. tall.

“Readiness is one of the main drivers and benefits that will be realized out of this effort as the tool will be capable of supporting sustainment activities on a wide range of parts and in time frames that will improve readiness,” says GVSC additive manufacturing (AM) expert Dr. Aaron LaLonde. “As use of the tool’s capabilities advance, additional advancements will be realized through enabling innovative design concepts that have the potential to result in performance improvements of parts, components, systems and vehicles.”

“We’re looking to leverage (AM) technology’s capability to more efficiently manufacture parts, reduce weight, lower costs, and improve long-term sustainment efforts, all to improve readiness,” adds Brandon Pender, GVSC associate director for the materials division. “GVSC remains at the forefront of support to Army readiness through our aggressive pursuit of advanced manufacturing capability.”

Pender notes that a smaller version of the printer, capable of producing parts to 3 by 4 by 5 ft., will be housed at the GVSC Detroit Arsenal Prototype Integration Facility and used for development work to support the larger machine.

Monolithic hulls for combat vehicles have well-established advantages—especially in survivability and weight savings—but traditional manufacturing processes are not cost-effective or adaptable to full production, especially when multiple vehicle platforms are considered.

“The Jointless Hull project ultimately aims to realize an overall improvement to the complete manufacturing process and supply chain for monolithic hulls with the potential of enabling additional advancements through the additive manufacturing process combined with materials and design to improve performance,” Pender explains.

While the ability to produce monolithic hulls is important, the new AM machine also will have the capacity to produce much larger AM parts than currently possible.

“There are a lot of big, heavy metal parts within the Army inventory for which AM is not even an option simply because they don’t fit within the build envelop of the current machines available in industry,” says Joseph Kott, GVSC materials division advanced manufacturing branch chief. “This new machine will provide Rock Island Arsenal with an additive capability that doesn’t exist anywhere else, not only to produce parts for the Army but also across the DOD.”

Industry-Related Terms: Additive manufacturing, Prototype
View Glossary of 3D Metal Printing Terms

Technologies: Applications

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