SPEE3D Demonstrates Cold Spray 3D Printing in US Navy SALVEX Exercise

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SPEE3D, the Australian original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of cold spray additive manufacturing (CSAM) systems, announced that the company participated in the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) SALVEX exercise, at Naval Base Pearl Harbor, in May. SPEE3D recently released the Expeditionary Manufacturing Unit — a ruggedized, end-to-end AM ecosystem housed in two shipping containers — and showcased it at Belgium’s AM Village 2024, also in May.

While this is apparently the first NAVSEA SALVEX exercise, the US Navy has been holding SALVEX exercises, war games meant to assess the branch’s capabilities in retrieving damaged maritime hardware, for decades. In collaboration with the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS), SPEE3D tested its technology’s viability for use in repairing parts from a ship “destroyed at sea and towed back to port”.

In a press release about SPEE3D’s participation in the SALVEX exercise at Naval Base Pearl Harbor, a spokesperson for the US Navy said, “Ensuring the security of our nation requires technology that can successfully work in all environments — including at sea — and we’re excited to have SPEE3D join the SALVEX exercise to demonstrate their [AM] capabilities for maritime repair. Supply chain issues are prevalent, so being able to manufacture metal parts quickly and from anywhere is a huge issue that we’re excited to test and hopefully resolve.”

The CEO of SPEE3D, Byron Kennedy, said, “SPEE3D is honored to be selected by the US Navy once again to demonstrate our proprietary cold-spray metal [AM] technology to help solve some of their most pressing supply chain issues in the field. The opportunity to participate in an exercise where a ship will be purposefully damaged as part of a naval exercise is novel, and we are optimistic that XSPEE3D will be able to print crucial metal parts to help repair the vessel quickly.”

Contested environments” is the latest buzz phrase that observers of the defense industrial base should get familiar with. The US military doesn’t just want to be able to manufacture on-the-go. It wants to be able to do so in conditions as isolated from US supply chains as possible, and in areas under the types of threats that are sure to become increasingly commonplace well into the future.

This explains why SPEE3D has become such a favorite of the US military, and most specifically, of the NPS. On a global scale, enhancing the Navy’s deployable manufacturing capabilities is the most straightforward path toward bolstering the US’s ability to manufacture in contested environments.

While, most immediately and concretely, the concept of contested environments may be about strategic competition between the US and China (among other competitors), from a long-term perspective, it is worth thinking about all global supply chains in those terms. The greatest threats to manufacturing security aren’t going to come from any human-led structure or organization, but from nature itself. In that sense, it is easy to envision a scenario whereby systematically ruggedized swing production capacity goes from a niche concern to a main feature of global economic planning.

Images courtesy of SPEE3D

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