ExOne Co., manufacturer of industrial sand and metal 3D printers with binder jetting technology, has won an order from the US Department of Defense to develop a fully functional, stand-alone 3D printing factory in a shipping container.
The rugged 3D printing factory pod, currently under development, will be placed in a standard shipping container up to 40 feet long and deployed on site, on land, sea or in the air to process parts Establish military disaster relief support or other remote operations. ExOne’s 3D printers can make parts from more than 20 metal, ceramic or composite materials.
The $ 1.6 million order, awarded in August by the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), specifically focuses on improving the ruggedness of ExOne’s commercially available Binder Jet 3D printers for a Variety of operating conditions while maintaining high quality final parts. In addition, the project aims to simplify the use of the technology on site through software and training so that the pod can be used with minimal technical knowledge.
“Binder-Jet 3D printing is an important manufacturing technology for military applications because of its speed, material flexibility and ease of use,” said John Hartner, CEO of ExOne. “We are excited to be working with the Department of Defense and other partners to make our military 3D printers more robust, which will also benefit our other manufacturing customers. Above all, we know that in a few years’ time our technology will play an important role in meeting critical requirements quickly. “
As part of the project, ExOne is developing a special military-grade 3D printer that can be used to bond more than 20 metal, ceramic and other powder materials into direct end products or tools using jet 3D printing. The updated commercial 3D printer has a unique body style and other features that make it a robust, military-grade product.
With the ability of an on-site military team to 3D print parts as needed, downtime can be reduced from weeks or months to days or less while lowering costs.
Ideally, military personnel would 3D print a digital file of a broken or damaged part and have a finished product in the self-contained capsule in less than 48 hours without traditional tools. This approach could save weeks on parts manufacturing while reducing waste and the need to maintain expensive inventory in crisis areas.
A digital parts library for 3D printing can be stored electronically, unlike spare parts shelves in a warehouse. If a digital file is not available for older parts, the object can be 3D scanned and printed on site. On-site problem solving parts could also be digitally designed and 3D printed if required.
ExOne’s binder jet 3D printing transforms powdered metal, sand or ceramic materials into high-density and functional precision parts at high speed. An industrial printhead selectively deposits a binder in a bed of powder particles, creating a thin solid part at a time. The technology is seen as a desirable and sustainable production method because of its high speed, low waste and cost costs, and material flexibility.
To accelerate the development of the robust 3D printing pod, ExOne will work with several partners who have unique technical know-how for the project:
• Dynovas Inc., based in Dover, Delaware, specializes in materials engineering, composite manufacturing, and weapon systems
• Applied Composites – San Diego, California, a provider of complex composite parts, assemblies, structures, and tools to the aerospace, defense, and space systems markets. AC-SD’s RAMCAM (Reinforced Additively Manufactured Compression Assisted Molding) system is a trailblazer for the current pod project.