Insights from the MGA 2023 Annual Meeting: US Army 3D Prints Cannon Part with Velo3D Machine


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Mobility | Medical goes Additive (MGA) serves as a robust network committed to industrializing additive manufacturing (AM). Bringing together a diverse array of firms—including Siemens, 3D Systems, 3YOURMIND, Alstom, Arburg, and Autodesk—as well as service bureaus and national railways, the network is a melting pot of expertise and innovation. If you’re a company in the 3D printing space, I highly recommend becoming part of this valuable consortium. I’m such an enthusiast that I attended the 23rd Annual Meeting.

The first day kicked off with the Women in AM Summit on September 26th—an event exclusively for women, so I couldn’t join. Highlights included Inka Mai’s discussion on Additive Manufacturing in Construction, as well as an insightful talk by Dr. Karolin Mellentin-Born from BEGO, a trailblazing company in 3D printing for dental applications. I’m fully supportive of this women-only event; it’s an effective way for women in our industry to connect and support one another.

The day continued with a general assembly of MGA’s members, followed by a networking drinks session. The atmosphere was relaxed, and the 3D printed food on offer was a delightful touch. With a diverse group of attendees and a stunning venue, the gathering was nothing short of enjoyable.

The following day kicked off with an energizing introduction by Stefanie Brickwede, the dynamic force behind MGA who also oversees 3D printing for Deutsche Bahn. Her enthusiasm set the stage for a compelling talk by Dr. Andrew Littlefield from the U.S. Army CCDC Armaments Center at Benét Labs. This research hub is no ordinary facility; it boasts a 3D print lab, a composites lab, and a focus on large-caliber weapons, among other specialties. Dr. Littlefield delved into a range of techniques, including wire arc additive manufacturing (WAAM), powder bed fusion, and bound metal, emphasizing their applications in sustainment and supply chain logistics.

What stood out to me was his openness about the Army’s current collaborations on projects involving Nanoe, Virtual Foundry, and BASF. These projects employ UltiMaker and Markforged machines to work on bound filament applications. I’ve always thought this technology is particularly well-suited for forward-deployed environments—a sentiment Dr. Littlefield echoed by stating the Army’s interest in field 3D printing.

The Army’s present focus is on the material properties of bound metal, but they are already advancing beyond this to explore the capabilities of various 3D printers and sintering ovens. They’re keen to understand how shrinkage rates differ across brands and equipment, a vital factor when you’re looking to manufacture complex components like mortar bipods or armored vehicle parts. All in all, it was a day of rich insights and forward-thinking discussions.

The day’s biggest surprise came when Andrew revealed the use of a Velo3D Sapphire XC 1MZ to 3D print a muzzle break for a howitzer. The complexity and scale of this part were far from ordinary; the print time alone was an astounding 11 days, and the part cost exceeded $50,000.

Following this, a panel featuring Tali Rosman, Stefan Ritt, and myself delved into a variety of pressing topics. We discussed merger activity in the 3D printing industry, the global market landscape, the looming presence of Chinese competition, and technology developments in Europe, among other subjects. The conversation was candid and, while sobering at times, hopefully offered some valuable perspectives.

Wulff Olesen from Ossiform then shifted gears to discuss their pioneering work in 3D printed bone structures. The day concluded with an informative session where Christian Ochs, Arvid Eirich, Stefan Landkammer, and Helge Schneevogt presented on MGA, Deutsche Bahn, and Siemens’ contributions to the world of 3D printed components. Their talk underlined the collaborative and transformative work being carried out by these industry leaders.

The conference continued with a workshop led by Ole von Seelen, where attendees were encouraged to use Trinckle to design their own fixtures. As a big fan of mass customization tools, I think empowering individuals to create custom fixtures with ease has significant potential to broaden the scope of our industry. This was followed by another workshop, inviting attendees to offer their input on MGA’s future direction and objectives.

The event itself was intimate and well-organized, fostering an atmosphere of both comfort and intellectual stimulation. What I appreciate most about MGA is its inclusivity; people from myriad backgrounds collaborate to advance our shared objectives in the additive field. To my pleasant surprise, I not only met new faces but also gained valuable insights once more.

Through specialized committees focused on qualification, testing, and materials, MGA is instrumental in facilitating the production of real-world components. Particularly in the Mobility and Medical sectors, MGA acts as a force multiplier for 3D printing, propelling the entire industry forward. I am genuinely impressed with MGA’s initiatives and wholeheartedly recommend membership to firms active in sectors like materials, machine construction, medical, or transportation.

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