In 2022, numerous developments seem to be signaling that metal additive manufacturing (AM) has entered a new era in its history. One company epitomizing this trajectory is Australia’s SPEE3D, which recently became the second company to successfully 3D print parts aboard an at-sea naval vessel. (Xerox, with its ElemX, became the first this past July.)
SPEE3D accomplished that feat by printing a bronze anchor using its WarpSPEED cold spray printer, aboard the Self Defense Test Ship (SDTS) at the US Navy’s REPTX 2022 demonstrations. Now, SPEE3D has announced its latest platform optimized for military use: the XSPEE3D, which the company is touting as “the world’s fastest all-in-one, containerized metal 3D printer”. SPEE3D worked on the new printer with its frequent collaborator, the Australian military — in this case, the Australian Army.
“Containerized”, quite literally, means that the printer and all other machinery has been built into a standardized shipping container. Militaries have been interested in this design concept for some time now, and could become even more interested in it amidst a massive global shipping container glut. In particular, its compact framework makes the XSPEE3D ideal for marine forces, as it could be unloaded off of a ship and loaded back on with fairly minimal difficulty.
The Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC), a research institution established by the UK government in 2010, has partnered with SPEE3D to be the first owner/operator of the XSPEE3D. Among other things, the MTC is the headquarters for the UK’s National Centre for Additive Manufacturing.
SPEE3D’s signature technology is its patented version of cold spray metal AM, which is attracting significant interest from military procurers all over the world. As SPEE3D’s entire corporate mission reflects, the relative portability and rapidity achievable with cold spray gives it a unique advantage for military purposes.
Aside from the primary target market of defense, the same qualities that favor the XSPEE3D’s use by armed forces would likely give it an edge for agricultural applications. This is due both to the platform being intended for use in rugged terrains, as well as the scarcer availability of replacement parts in rural areas.
Finally, India could ultimately be the perfect target market for XSPEE3D, or any containerized printer. Regarding SPEE3D specifically, its Australia headquarters could, in the long run, also contribute to making the company an ideal supplier to the India market. Australia and India have been brought closer together for the same reasons that have brought the Five Eyes’ nations closer to India in general, with geographical considerations making Australia especially significant to that dynamic.
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