ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- Top university and industry researchers met this week at Carnegie Mellon University to forge a collaboration to improve on-demand 3-D printing.
As part of a newly-formed Research Alliance for Additive Manufacturing Innovations, the group will uncover best approaches to advance unified holistic multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary additive manufacturing research for Army acquisition and sustainment programs.
Alliance members are partners with the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command's Army Research Laboratory where the goal is to develop, advance and integrate high-fidelity modular digital, analytical, and predictability additive manufacturing tools under a unified machine-learning platform.
"This alliance will help execute strategic, collaborative land force research towards Army priorities," said Kyu Cho, chief of the laboratory's Manufacturing Science and Technology Branch. "Our warfighters will be able to replace aged parts on current and legacy weapons, particularly where replacements parts are no longer available from the original supplier or operational logistics are disrupted.
Army researchers said the outcomes must meet quality, performance, and affordability standards, which is a known challenge, for achieving Army additive manufacturing rapid certification and qualification readiness.
"This alliance is for developing a sustainable research collaboration ecosystem," Cho said.
The goal is to ultimately provide the Army with expeditionary agile manufacturing capabilities at or near the point of need, he said.
The alliance formation is one of several recent steps the laboratory has taken to advance research in additive manufacturing.
Earlier this year, the lab announced a new partnership with a company that licensed parts of a new type of polymer filament Army researchers created that can be used on commonly-used desktop 3-D printers. Parts printed with these printers typically have poor strength and toughness. But new materials can print parts on commercially-available printers and only need to process for a few hours to achieve mechanical properties that are practical and useful, researchers said.
The Army's additive manufacturing work extends from plastic, metal, sand and novel materials that behave like human tissues and bones needed for advanced ballistics research.
In 2019, Army researchers developed a way to 3-D print ultra-strong metal parts by adapting an alloy originally developed by the Air Force into powder form. Using powder bed fusion, a 3-D printer's laser selectively melts the powder into a pattern. The printer then coats the build plate with additional layers of powder until the part is complete. That work will be further developed as part of the laboratory's investment in the development of the world's largest, fastest, most precise metal 3-D printer.
In July 2019, the lab awarded 3D Systems a $15 million contract to create a printer that would revolutionize key supply chains associated with long-range munitions, next-generation combat vehicles, helicopters and air and missile defense capabilities. 3D Systems and the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences were awarded funding to create this revolutionary printer and will partner with the Army and the Advanced Manufacturing, Materials, and Processes Program to advance the leadership and innovation of the world's strongest military.
The new alliance complements the CAMMS partnership with the NCMS AMMP Consortium.
CAMMS established a partnership with the Advanced Manufacturing and Materials Processes Consortium in 2018 to ensure alignment of projects towards Army priorities. The National Center for Manufacturing Sciences runs the consortium, which is establishing an Advanced Manufacturing Collaboration Center at or near APG to facilitate physical collaboration with Army.
CCDC Army Research Laboratory is an element of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command. As the Army's corporate research laboratory, ARL discovers, innovates and transitions science and technology to ensure dominant strategic land power. Through collaboration across the command's core technical competencies, CCDC leads in the discovery, development and delivery of the technology-based capabilities required to make Soldiers more lethal to win our nation's wars and come home safely. CCDC is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command.