Military HVAC Contractor to Launch Containerized End-to-End Metal 3D Printing Platform

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Snowbird Technologies, an HVAC original equipment manufacturer (OEM) that specializes in ruggedized solutions for the military, announced that the company will be launching its first additive manufacturing (AM) platform. The system, called the Snowbird Additive Mobile Manufacturing Technology (SAMMTech), will launch at the Sea-Air-Space Show in Washington, DC (April 3-5, 2023), hosted by The Navy League.

The SAMMTech comes containerized in a standard shipping container, which, in addition to a metal wire directed energy deposition (DED) 3D printer, houses a cutting mill designed for post-processing. The SAMMTech features gantry technology patented by Snowbird, and appears to rely on the Meltio Engine for machine integration. That seems fitting for a company in the defense sector: Meltio manufactured the deposition head for the first metal printer to be permanently installed on a US Navy ship, a Phillips Additive Hybrid.

In a press release about Snowbird’s first AM product, the company’s president, Scott Morse, commented, “This method of 3D printing allows for a wide range of materials from carbon steel to titanium. In addition, any printed part can be post-processed using the cutting mill. This combination will enable quick, high-tolerance interim and end-use parts to be produced onsite anywhere in the world.”

According to Snowbird, the SAMMTech can handle parts as large as 4.5 cubic feet, and works with a standard 3-phase 480 V industrial outlet. Thus, as with containerized printers generally, the goal is for the customer to be able to use it anywhere, in addition to the supplier’s being able to ship it anywhere in ready-to-use form.

I think that defense customers in the AM sector are about to go nuts for containerized, end-to-end printing platforms. (Australian company SPEE3D, for instance, an increasingly popular brand in the defense market, released one — the XSPEE3D — in October, 2022.) Snowbird is an especially intriguing prospect to go after that business, since the company already has extensive experience with ruggedization, as well as a lengthy presence in the military procurement market. Moreover, given that temperature control of the print environment is one of the most crucial aspects determining the success of a print, an HVAC company is a much more natural fit for entering the AM space than one might initially think.

That’s the angle to this launch that I find most notable, in terms of its relevance to the broader industry: it’s a reminder of the unique intermediate phase between startup and scale-up that 3D printing currently inhabits, similar to the PC market in the early 80s. As established as the sector already may be, there will still be many more late entrants to the AM game from adjacent legacy manufacturing sectors that could shake up the landscape quite a bit.

Images courtesy of Snowbird Technologies

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