AML3D, an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of wire additive manufacturing (AM) platforms based in Adelaide, Australia, has won a $2 million contract from the US Navy to print a non safety critical (NSC) component used in the navy’s submarines. The contract, facilitated by nonprofit government services provider BlueForge Alliance, follows a series of 2023 sales by AML3D to the DoD, all related to the US submarines program.
A day prior to the latest announcement, AML3D announced it had been awarded a contract extension worth over a quarter-million dollars to continue work on characterizing and strength testing of Nickel- Aluminum-Bronze (NAB) alloy material. The $2 million contract is for an out-of-production replacement component also made from NAB, so the two announcements in combination illustrate the way AML3D is successfully building up its entry into the US defense industrial base.
According to AML3D, work on the contract will begin in September and run for nine months. Since the company has sold two of its ARCEMY X-Edition 6700 platforms to the DoD this year — one is at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), the other will be installed at the US Navy AM Center of Excellence (CoE) in Danville, Virginia in early 2024 — it is likely that the purpose of the parts production contract is to test the AML3D platform’s capability for distributed manufacturing.
As I mentioned in my last post about AML3D, the case for the company’s business strategy is strongly supported by the Biden administration’s March, 2023 announcement of the trilateral, Australia-UK-US (AUKUS) partnership surrounding “Australia’s future nuclear-powered submarine [SSN] capability,” SSN-AUKUS. This latest piece of information about AML3D’s activities reinforces the idea that the purpose of the partnership is not just to increase submarine output, but just as importantly, to test and refine each partner’s respective capabilities for distributed manufacturing. Submarines are an especially useful benchmark for testing such capabilities insofar as the US Navy’s Submarine Safety Program (SUBSAFE) is one of the most stringent quality assurance programs in global manufacturing.
This could certainly also come in handy for AML3D concerning the other most important part of its customer base, oil & gas. In the last couple of weeks, a global spotlight has been thrown onto Australia’s natural gas sector, with threats of strikes at three of the nation’s largest offshore liquid natural gas (LNG) terminals leading to a spike in global LNG prices. The three facilities represent ten percent of global LNG supply.
Global energy giant Chevron has ownership stakes in all three terminals, which is notable here as Chevron placed an order from AML3D in November, 2022 for subsea pipeline fittings. Whether or not the strikes happen, the disproportionate dependence of the whole global economy on the output of such a sparsely populated nation implies how much value will accrue to all possible labor-saving solutions in the Australian energy sector.
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