Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Buys SPEE3D Metal 3D Printers

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SPEE3D, the Australian original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of cold spray additive manufacturing (CSAM) platforms, has been awarded a contract by the Japanese Ministry of Defense to purchase both WarpSPEE3D and XSPEE3D printers for the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF). This is the latest in a series of sales by SPEE3D to militaries across the globe over the last few years, with the most recent contract involving a deal that will put SPEE3D’s platform in the US Naval Postgraduate School (NPS).

CSAM is particularly suitable for repairs done at the point of need, which accounts for the defense sector’s rapidly accelerating interest in the technology. CSAM works by using compressed air to spray metal powders onto a substrate.

As I’ve written about based on interviews with both the company’s CEO, Byron Kennedy, as well as its CTO, Steven Camilleri, SPEE3D has leveraged CSAM’s relative simplicity, low cost, and quick turnaround time to create a surrounding platform that prioritizes ruggedization and deployability. The XSPEE3D, for instance, is a containerized system that the Australian Army helped the company to develop.

In a press release about the contract to provide its CSAM machines to the JGSDF, Kennedy said, “We are grateful to be expanding our presence into Japan and the APAC region. We’re also thrilled to partner with the Japanese military, to train and prepare forces to use the XSPEE3D printer in the field to help solve their most pressing supply chain issues for quickly made on-demand parts.”

As I wrote about recently in a post about the more visible stirrings lately coming from Australia’s burgeoning 3D printing market, the traction gained by SPEE3D can best be understood in the context of the trilateral partnership between the US, the UK, and Australia (AUKUS) struck in 2021. Although of course it is not a part of AUKUS, Japan is a part of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD), a military partnership between the US, India, Australia, and Japan.

Notably, the UK parliament’s foreign affairs select committee published a report in August urging that Japan and South Korea be asked to join AUKUS. This comes at a time when the prime minister of Japan, after decades of the nation’s relative inactivity militarily, has laid out plans to double Japan’s defense spending over the next five years. As usual, the pretext for this is tension with China. On the other hand, given that, since the middle of the 20th century, defense spending has been one of the primary sources of fiscal stimulus in industrialized nations, it seems likely that this is the sort of thing that would be happening no matter the specific justification.

However, the explicit form it is taking indicates that there is a method underlying the Keynesian madness: creating the foundation for alternative supply chains to China’s Belt and Road. Along these lines, I’m expecting there to be an increased focus from nations like the US and Japan on the importance of trade between Australia and India. Even if QSD and AUKUS don’t become overtly combined at some point, then, there should be obvious parallels between the trajectories of both, as we’re already seeing in examples like this one. In turn, I wouldn’t be surprised if SPEE3D announces activity in the Indian market sooner rather than later.

Images courtesy of SPEE3D

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