Since launching its patented cold spray-based supersonic 3D deposition (SP3D) additive manufacturing (AM) technology, Australian manufacturer SPEE3D has revolutionized metal 3D printing. In the last few years, the company has deployed its massive 3D printers in the U.S. and its home country, where they’ve been used for military applications. Now, SPEE3D’s printers will become one of the first advanced manufacturing technologies to be installed at a new Cold Spray Research Center that will be launched later in 2022 by engineering and technology non-profit EWI––formerly the Edison Welding Institute.
Described by EWI as one of the fastest metal AM production techniques, cold spray is an effective method for applying unique coatings and making repairs with similar or dissimilar metals. In addition, it eliminates heat-affected zones and can be used on heat-sensitive materials. Considered an environmentally friendly process––particularly when compared to electroplating––the technology uses a heated carrier gas such as air, nitrogen, or helium to accelerate powders above a critical velocity through a nozzle for adhesion to a receiving surface.
Aiming to unlock the potential of cold spray and mature it into a more reliable, repeatable, and reasonable capability from a cost perspective, EWI researchers will use the company’s first large-format cold spray metal 3D printer WarpSPEE3D to explore and validate how cold spray can provide new manufacturing solutions for cost-effective replacement parts that can be deployed outside of research.
With the new Australian-made machine to be installed at EWI’s Buffalo Manufacturing Works facility in New York, a specialized AM team will advance knowledge and capability within the field, facilitating and accelerating the successful application of cold spray technology across various industries.
EWI said it chose the technology due to its proven ability to manufacture parts quickly and affordably, easy installation, and versatility to work under extreme conditions. Actually, SPEE3D’s extremely fast 3D printers have proven robust enough for austere environments such as the field of combat, making it an ideal expeditionary solution for building components on-demand at the point of need. Both the U.S. and Australian armies have leveraged the capabilities of WarpSPEE3D to mature AM applications.
As SPEE3D’s flagship large-format machine, the WarpSPEE3D can build multiple components at once up to 1000 x 700 millimeters in diameter and print 30 tons of metal parts per year. Running at supersonic speeds of 100 grams per minute––between 100 and 1,000 times faster than traditional metal 3D printing methods––WarpSPEE3D can build industrial quality metal parts in minutes rather than days or weeks, at much lower costs.
In fact, the machine is an excellent example of how cold spray can be used in the real world. Since being released in 2019, the WarpSPEE3D has often been chosen by defense forces as an on-demand, deployable metal manufacturing capability. For example, the WarpSPEE3D was transported 600 kilometers into Australia’s Northern Territory to produce parts during Exercise Koolendong 2021, a high-end live-fire warfighting exercise completed by Australian Army personnel and U.S. Marines from the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin (MRF-D).
Over three weeks, the printer was successfully used to 3D print, validate, and certify over a dozen armored vehicle parts in the field for the Australian Army’s M113 Armored Personnel Carrier vehicle. One of the many parts the team produced during Exercise Koolendong was an M113 exhaust part (shown below), printed in just 78 minutes.
One of the many parts the AMC team produced during Exercise Koolendong 2021 was this M113 exhaust part, printed on the Australian Army's WarpSPEE3D tactical printer in just 78 minutes! #Defence #metal3dprinting #additivemanufacturing #manufacturing #Australia #3dprinting pic.twitter.com/1DeKuJB6Lw
— SPEE3D (@OfficialSPEE3D) December 2, 2021
At EWI, the WarpSPEE3D will support researchers by unlocking the potential of cold spray and mature it into a more reliable, repeatable, and reasonable capability from a cost perspective. Once installed at EWI’s new Cold Spray Center, WarpSPEE3D will be one of a lineup of cold spray machines, including other platforms from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), VRC Metal Systems, and Centerline Supersonic Spray Technology (SST). Furthermore, according to the organization, by leveraging EWI’s engineering expertise, cutting-edge resources, and technologies, as well as a vast partner network, the cold spray facility will serve as an unbiased, unmatched hub of innovation, driving, and supporting the adoption of this promising technology.
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