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Additive manufacturing — also known as 3D printing — has been in development for decades and the U.S. military branches and the defense industrial base have both integrated the advanced manufacturing technique in their processes.
The US military wants to develop a massive 3D metal printer that would be able to create a military truck exterior in one giant piece.
The Army’s Jointless Hull Project is designed “to develop a large-scale tool capable of producing single, jointless combat vehicle hulls at a near net size of 30-foot-by-20-foot-by-12 foot in size,” according to ASTRO America, the nonprofit that is working with the Army to develop the technology.
According to the Pentagon’s first additive manufacturing strategy published in January, the goals are to integrate this technology into the Pentagon and the defense industrial base; promote agile use; develop best practices and proficiency; secure workflows; and support collaboration across services and the federal government.
Meanwhile, a variety of 3D printing programs are proceeding throughout the military. The Army project is one of many ways the armed services are using additive manufacturing to innovate and make supply chains more resilient.
Additive manufacturing can help the services save funds, officials say. One of the Army’s largest efforts includes reviewing weapons systems parts to see which ones could be recreated with 3D printing — particularly those found in legacy systems.
Next-generation high strength metal alloys and lightweight metal alloys are some of the materials the Army is looking into 3D printing to meet potential performance requirements, according to nationaldefensemagazine.org.