Metal 3D Printing and Defence: A Revolution for the Ages

With the advent and use of 3D printing in the defence industry, expedited solutions to spare parts production and easier management of logistics have become a reality. 3D print services facilitate the rapid production of functional prototypes while being a handy mechanism for the manufacturing of end parts.

3D printing in metal using the Direct Metal Laser Sintering or DMLS technology can be applied in the production of a plethora of defence and military needs, from a microdrone to electrical parts for use in a submarine. Online 3D printing allows for remote production which can significantly decrease the pressures on the army logistics chain.

3D printed metal parts have the added advantage that they weigh less, owing to the composite 3D printed materials. This is an ideal scenario where the weight of weapon systems is always an issue that the military is trying to resolve. Lightweight aircraft wings or armour are other examples.

Benefits and Applications

Metal 3D printing is an ideal choice when it comes to resolving the urgent operational needs on the battlefronts. As already mentioned, when the enemy is close at hand, time is of the essence. Therefore, 3D printing damaged components in such circumstances, instead of waiting for their replacements to arrive at an uncertain, future date, is a far more advantageous option.


Metal-3d-printed-part

3D printing is an ideal technology for use in defence as it can create quick prototypes and models. this eliminates the need for expensive tooling. Design concept, validation, and testing can be carried out at a much faster rate.

Here are some useful applications of metal and plastic 3D printing in defence and aerospace spaces:

  1. Jigs and fixtures, at reduced manufacturing costs, used in aircraft.
  2. Surrogates, or placeholder parts, used primarily for training purposes by space agencies and the air force.
  3. Structural, low-volume mounting brackets used to install life-saving systems inside aircraft.

3D Print Materials

Some of the most useful materials employed for 3D printing applications in defence and aerospace include:

Polymers/composites
  • Glass-filled nylon
  • ULTEM
  • Standard resin
  • Digital ABS
  • Agilus black
  • Transparent resign
  • Nylon 12
  • Castable resin or wax
Metals
  • Titanium
  • Aluminium
  • Stainless steel 420
  • Stainless steel 316L
  • MS1
  • Inconel
Metal 3d printing for defence

The primary role of 3D printing service in the defence sector is to reduce manufacturing costs while increasing the production speed and efficiently managing the supply chain. By reducing the capital required to achieve economies of scale, additive manufacturing is making large factories redundant. It also provides sufficient flexibility in design, especially for parts with complex geometries.

Biological applications of 3D printing are also being considered in the military which hopes to obtain 3D printed skin in order to treat burn wounds of soldiers, not to mention lightweight body armour and helmets, customized to suit the physique of whoever wears them. Ongoing research also promises ways of using 3D printing technology to produce food for soldiers, based on their unique dietary needs.


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