BAE Systems Orders More Metal 3D Printed Warship Prototype Parts for Australian Navy


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Australian additive manufacturing company AML3D (ASX: AL3) will use its patented wire additive manufacturing (WAM) technology to 3D metal print prototype parts for nine Hunter class frigates built and designed by defense contractor BAE Systems for the Royal Australian Navy. As part of the deal, AML3D will investigate the feasibility of creating components for the warfighters and deliver actual prototypes by the last quarter of 2022 as an alternative to traditionally cast items for future builds.

3D Printing for Australian Navy Program

AML3D is one of 1400 Australian companies that have pre-qualified as suppliers in the BAE Systems Hunter class frigate supply chain. Thanks to this multi-million dollar initiative, known as the Hunter Class Frigate Program (HCFP), the Australian Defence Force will have one of the highest levels of anti-submarine capability. They will replace its decades-old Anzac class defense warfighters.

Created in 2015, this project is expected to roll out the first-of-class HMAS (Her Majesty’s Australian Ship) Flinders by 2031 and will ensure Australia has one of the world’s most advanced anti-submarine warfare vessels in the world. Considering the emerging threat of China’s growing military influence in the Asia Pacific region, Australia believes it needs to be far more ambitious in its approach to undersea warfare, and the Hunter class frigates, which will be helpful in the 2030s, will increase its naval capability.

Following this recently announced deal, the two companies will become even closer partners. For BAE Systems, the new contract moves the HCFP project out of the validation testing phase. At the same time, AML3D will benefit from establishing yet another important commercial relationship with BAE Systems, especially in the context of the scale of its broader shipbuilding initiatives.

Moreover, the purchase contract for prototype Hunter class components follows a commercial validation testing program initiated in October 2020, demonstrating that AML3D’s WAM technology is a cost-effective manufacturing solution with the potential to minimize lead times and meet BAE Systems’ internal standards for AM part production in Australia. In addition, the validation test results illustrated how WAM technology can support the continuous naval shipbuilding and sustainment of sovereign capability as laid out in the Australian Government’s Naval Shipbuilding Plan, which sets out to deliver up to 21 pacific patrol boats, 12 offshore patrol vessels, nine frigates, and 12 future submarines.

AML3D’s WAM process. Image courtesy of AML3D.

AML3D’s 3D Printing Track Record

As the world’s first large-scale 3D metal printing company accredited by the maritime classification society Lloyd’s Register and to secure AM accreditation from DNV, the world’s leading marine and industrial classification society, AML3D is a forerunner in providing certified high-strength components to the maritime industry. This position makes the startup an attractive local, high-tech manufacturing partner for BAE Systems, but not a new one. In 2021, AML3D had already revealed plans to establish a research and development facility at the state-of-the-art Factory of the Future, currently under development by Flinders University and BAE Systems at the Tonsley Innovation District in Adelaide. In turn, the new site will further help the AM machine manufacturer develop its large-scale metal 3D printing capability.

This and other collaborative projects with BAE Systems expand on AML3D’s already extensive work in the defense sector, including a purchase contract with a new defense aerospace customer to deliver a 500kg, four-part aluminum nozzle; a deal with Boeing to test aluminum parts for prototype components, and a collaboration with Austal to co-develop components for maritime defense applications.

Commenting on the company’s latest news, AML3D’s recently appointed CEO, Ryan Millar, indicated that developing commercial relationships across the marine and defense sectors is critical to AML3D’s strategic growth plan.

“We had great confidence that WAM® would satisfy BAE Systems Australia’s testing protocols and are pleased to have successfully moved this project out of the validation testing phase. Providing prototype components that will support BAE Systems Australia’s contract with the Royal Australian Navy to build the Hunter class frigates is another step in building a commercial relationship of great significance. Especially in the context of the scale of BAE Systems Australia’s wider shipbuilding initiatives in Australia.”

AML3D's Arcemy large 3D metal printer AML3D’s Arcemy large 3D metal printer. Image courtesy of AML3D.

Currently valued at AU$15.24M ($9.9M), AML3D continues to deliver against its multi-phase growth strategy, built upon accessing immediate, medium, and longer-term value drivers. With recent contract wins, and ongoing contract negotiations with Tier 1 companies, like BAE, Thales, RheinMetall, and Northrop Grumman, the Adelaide-headquartered business is quickly becoming an approved supplier of 3D printed parts for major Australian companies.

Building upon its advanced WAM technology’s fast lead times, it is becoming well known for supplying design optimization, short lead, and delivery times. Shortly, In addition to the industry certifications and standards already in place, AML3D is focusing on obtaining AS9100D accreditation, a measure that specifies additional aviation, space, and defense industry requirements and enhances its prospects within these key market segments.

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