ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (July 17, 2014) -- Additive manufacturing continues to generate a buzz across the nation, while sparking the economy with new design and manufacturing techniques.

The U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., is one of a handful of government organizations working with additive manufacturing to provide concept-to-product warfighter solutions faster and for less money.

"We've had 3-D printing and 3-D laser scanning capabilities here since the mid-1990s," said Rick Moore, branch chief of ECBC's Rapid Technologies and Inspection Branch. "These capabilities help us get equipment in the hands of the warfighter more quickly. It also provides access for other engineering and science groups to design products with multiple design iterations or changes before fully investing critical funds into full production of that item."

Additive manufacturing is the process of making a three-dimensional solid object of nearly any shape from a digital model. Having this capability has increased the speed of collaboration and innovation as designers work with partners to deliver products to the warfighter or bring them to market.

Additive manufacturing has proven to be ideal for proof of concept testing which facilitates cost-effective design iterations during the design phase, Moore said.

As the benefits of additive manufacturing gain attention, the state of Maryland is looking to capitalize on the revolution. Gov. Martin O'Malley signed a bill into law May 15 to establish the Northeastern Maryland Additive Manufacturing Innovation Authority, a consortium of private business, educational institutions, government agencies and APG representatives.

By partnering with the U.S. Army, Maryland legislators hope the law will facilitate the future of manufacturing, bring jobs into the area and ensure the state is at the forefront of innovation.

An overarching Cooperative Research and Development Agreement between NMAMIA and ECBC will provide industry, academia and other non-federal partners with streamlined access to the center's expertise and capabilities in additive manufacturing, 3-D printing and computer aided design. Projects under the overarching CRADA will be documented by separate Joint Work Statements in order to protect data and other intellectual property from release to unauthorized personnel. Each JWS will describe the scope of work to be performed, the roles of the parties, and the amount of funds needed for ECBC and other federal laboratory support to be provided.

NMAMIA will leverage these world-class federal assets and help U.S. industry gain a competitive advantage in the international marketplace.

The Army's additive manufacturing credibility comes from many high-profile uses for the new technology at APG. One recent example was the joint mission between the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and United Nations to destroy Syria's chemical agent stockpile. The center's Advanced Design and Manufacturing Division used a reverse modeling technique during the development of the Field Deployable Hydrolysis System, a new weapons of mass destruction-elimination technology developed to destroy chemical agents.

Reverse Engineering played an integral role in the production and manufacturing of the FDHS by generating 3-D virtual models through reverse modeling techniques," Moore said. "These models could be adapted at a moment's notice during the design phase, where the biggest challenge was creating a workable system that could fit into 20-foot shipping containers for transport."

Army engineers used the computer-aided design to create a physical scale model of the system for presentation purposes.

"The model was used as a communication tool to help explain the system to stakeholders," said Brad Ruprecht, engineering technician and model maker with the Rapid Technologies Branch. "Our branch is best known for additive manufacturing, we also provide high fidelity prototyping, model making and urethane plastic casting, and can respond quickly to customer requests."

ECBC officials said they will continue to be a resource for the community and will support the initiative through several upcoming STEM events, including summer camps.

"CERDEC's summer camp will feature ECBC engineers and technicians who worked with the Hollywood movie industry to learn additive manufacturing processes and techniques to produce special effects props such as the Iron Man suit," Moore said. "These engineers and technicians brought back concepts and applied them when creating the Future Soldier model for the STEM recruitment asset."

Moore said their initiatives in additive manufacturing are highlighted by a desire to engage the science and technology community with solutions.

"Helping the next generation of scientists and engineers fosters the necessary skills for the technical excellence required for future of work," Moore said. "It will lead to improved products and services to meet the evolving needs of the warfighter."


This article appears in the July/August issue of Army Technology Magazine, which focuses on 3-D printing. The magazine is available as an electronic download, or print publication. The magazine is an authorized, unofficial publication published under Army Regulation 360-1, for all members of the Department of Defense and the general public.

The Edgewood Chemical Biological Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America's Soldiers.

RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army's premier provider of materiel readiness -- technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection, and sustainment -- to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC provides it.