U.S. Army, NASA and Alabama University Team up to Explore the “Game-Changer” of 3D Printing

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The U.S. Army and NASA have joined forces with Alabama University to explore the potential of additive manufacturing for use in defense and space exploration.

The U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC), NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), and the University of Alabama in Huntsville, have established an Integrated Product Team (IPT) to engage in research and development to advance the technology behind additive manufacturing.

Acting AMRDEC Director James Lackey, said:

 “When you come to learn and appreciate the potential of AM, it’s hard not to judge this as a true game-changer; one that will ultimately have far reaching, historical impacts onto our society at-large.”

Army engineer assigned to NASA Additive Manufacturing Lab

Army engineer assigned to NASA Additive Manufacturing Lab

Lackey added that AMRDEC is looking at trade studies to investigate additive manufacturing as a means of minimizing cost and optimizing performance in missile technology with the aim of enhancing designs of additive manufactured structures, as well characterizing materials and different processes for specific missile applications.

“Teaming with NASA MSFC and other partners, AMRDEC will investigate procurements of AM machines to support our research needs, build a cadre of engineers and scientists savvy on this technology, fabricate and performance test qualify components for ground and flight test,” said Lackey.

Of course, this is not the first time the military and the space agency has shown an interest in 3D printing. We reported last month on how the U.S. Navy has installed the first 3D printer on one of their ships, while NASA has also announced that the first 3D printer is being sent into space, but the new IPT agreement represents just how seriously both organizations are viewing the potential of the technology.

Dr. Dale Thomas, Marshall Center’s associate director for NASA said: “Additive manufacturing is a step toward the future. It is changing the way organizations design and manufacture products around the world, and space is one of the key places where humanity will see the impact of this technology.”

The agreement between AMRDEC and NASA MSFC was facilitated by Phil Farrington, professor of industrial and systems engineering and engineering management at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

Dale Thomas, associate director-technical at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, and James Lackey signing the IPT agreement.

Dale Thomas, associate director-technical at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, and James Lackey signing the IPT agreement.

“This effort continues a long tradition of collaboration between the AMRDEC and Marshall.  This exciting new technology has the potential to radically change the way we manufacture aerospace and defense systems,” said Farrington. “One of the team’s goals is to identify additive manufacturing research and development needs of greatest importance to the defense and space community.”

Working together the Army, NASA, and Alabama University should be able to cut down on the costs of their research, and share information which may be crucial to each participant’s involvement.  Discuss this story at the 3DPB.com forum thread related to this article.

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