AMS Spring 2023

Australian Navy Starts Pilot Program with Large-Format WarpSPEED Metal 3D Printer

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Australian metal 3D printing company SPEE3D, based in both Darwin and Melbourne, specializes in large-format additive manufacturing, and says that its technology is the fastest and most economical metal AM in the world. SPEE3D quickly caught the eye of the Australian Defence services, and just a few short years ago, the company teamed up with Charles Darwin University (CDU) to found the Advanced Manufacturing Alliance (AMA), a worldwide center of excellence for real world 3D printing applications. The Australian Government then invested $1.5 million into a two-year pilot of SPEE3D’s metal AM technology for the Royal Australian Navy, and SPEE3D, CDU, and the AMA have been working hard to deliver the pilot program.

Thanks to this previous government investment in an 18-month pilot of SPEE3D’s technology for the Royal Australian Navy, a world-first trial of its large-format metal AM is now commencing at HMAS Coonawarra Navy Port in Darwin. The Fleet Support Unit (FSU) at HMAS Coonawarra has installed the massive WarpSPEE3D, with its 265 mm high nozzle, at the port.

A custom grey WarpSPEE3D system on its way to HMAS Coonawarra, Darwin, where it will be put through its paces by the Royal Australian Navy during an extensive 18-month trial, building on the trial recently completed by the Australian Army. (Image: SPEE3D via Facebook)

“We are excited to be working with The Royal Australian Navy on this programme,” SPEE3D CEO Byron Kennedy said in a press release. “Having the capability to produce high-quality metal parts on-demand, in the field or at sea will be ground-breaking for the Australian Defence Force.”

A large part of Defense Force costs around the world go towards sustainment applications, which is the repair, maintenance, and overhaul (RMO) of equipment. It was already hard, and expensive, to move spare parts through the regular supply chain, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t made this any easier; however, it is at least shining the spotlight on an existing issue. Many advanced manufacturing technologies are too slow, expensive, and delicate to offer any real help. But SPEE3D’s 3D printing solution, which the company claims is the only large-format metal AM trialed and proven to be deployable in the field by Australian Defence, can handle it.

Royal Australian Navy’s WarpSPEE3D 3D metal printer installed at HMAS Coonawarra, Darwin

The WarpSPEE3D printer can manufacture large parts, up to 1 x 0.7 m, that weigh up to 40 kg, at a rapid rate of 100 grams per minute. With this recent installation, the Royal Australian Navy is the latest of the country’s Defence services to have the ability to create their own metal parts with on-demand 3D printing.

The Australian Army recently put SPEE3D’s large-scale WarpSPEE3D printer to the test in a series of successful, award-winning field trials in a very remote part of the Australian outback. These trials were also funded by the Australian Government, and including training in design, parts certification, hardware, and more for CDU 3D printing engineers and Army craftsmen. As a result, the Army can now print and finish a variety of parts in the field on their own much faster and more rapidly than the existing supply chain could handle. It’s expected that this new pilot program with the Royal Australian Navy will also yield some very positive results.

An example of a 3D printed metal part printed on a SPEE3D printer – an Aluminium Bronze Propeller.

This new Australian Defence trial is meant to use 3D printing to streamline patrol vessel maintenance, as well as increase the amount of parts to which the Navy has access.

(Source/Images: SPEE3D)

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