The U.S. Navy has been steadily increasing its investment into practical 3D printer usage, as opposed to research. The latest comes in the form of a whopping $20 million contract to buy up to 25 Stratasys F900 3D printers over the next five years. With the first eight set to be delivered by the end of 2021, the contract also includes initial support, materials and training.
The deal comes some months after the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) published a report about its plans for additive manufacturing, which highlighted the technology’s value in enabling a digital manufacturing ecosystem. For the DoD, 3D printing is a method that can be used to speed up design and production, thus leading to deploying weapons more quickly in the field. The DoD aims to bring 3D printing into its own operations and its broader military production supply chain.
“The benefits of additive manufacturing for military organizations like the U.S. Navy include cost-effectively extending the life of strategic and tactical assets like aircraft while ensuring sustainment activities can happen quickly and from virtually anywhere,” said Mark Menninger, Director of U.S. Government Business Segment for Stratasys. “This contract, the largest government project for Stratasys to-date, continues to expand the presence of industrial 3D printing from Stratasys across the U.S. government.”
The F900 is Stratasys’s largest fused deposition modeling (FDM) 3D printer, with a build volume of 36 x 24 x 36 in. With it, the Navy will 3D print large-scale parts for end-use, tooling, and training aids at its bases in the U.S. and Japan. The Navy has been steadily investing into 3D printing since 2014, adopting new technologies and methods as AM advances.Installing its first 3D printer aboard a vessel in 2014, the maritime agency has gone onto use a variety of 3D printing processes for such applications as producing parts for communications gear, fabricating replacement parts, and designing new ships. At the same time, it has taken on new technologies, such as the ElemX metal 3D printer from Xerox, while researching novel processes like Ingersoll’s massive composites system. It’s even investing in machine learning to analyze 3D printing data.
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