What’s in the Army Now? 3D Metal Printing

(DGIwire) – The advantages of 3D printing are increasingly being enlisted by the U.S. Army, according to a recent article on 3DPrint.com. As the article notes, the technology has long been recognized by this branch of the military, which is finding benefit in its ability to improve readiness. The overarching goal is to send military units out into the field with just the right amount of equipment to establish a mobile unit for on-demand 3D printing.

The article cites various sources reporting that a range of military hardware items—from camera lens covers to helicopter motors to parts for the M1 Abrams tank—have all been created via 3D printing. If applied correctly, notes the article, 3D printing will allow soldiers deployed all over the world to make almost anything they need in the field.

“It is logical that the U.S. Army would find 3D additive manufacturing to be an important tactical asset,” says John Rice, CEO of Sigma Labs. “To make this work on time-critical one-or-two-part builds upon which lives may depend, the Army must also adopt and integrate a best-of-breed in-process quality control suite to be sure that the new parts are solutions, not added problems.”

Sigma Labs’ PrintRite3D® suite of products presents a significant value proposition to OEMs and manufacturers, as it is designed to increase production yield of 3D metal manufactured parts, cut post-process quality inspection costs, and reduce time to market. PrintRite3D® combines inspection, feedback, data collection and critical analysis into a unified platform.

The first component of the PrintRite3D® platform is SENSORPAK®, which utilizes multi-sensors and affiliated edge computers to collect real-time data on additive manufacturing processes. It enables part quality assessment during manufacturing, and is capable of measuring the salient in-process state variables associated with an additive metal manufacturing process.

This component is complemented by INSPECT®, which comprises software for in-process inspection of metallurgical properties. It uses sensor data and establishes in-process metrics for each product’s design specifications and metal. It provides manufacturing engineers with information in real time that can permit them to avert a part that is beginning to display discontinuities from going on to become a rejected part. INSPECT® also generates quality reports based on rigorous statistical analysis of manufacturing process data and allows for interrogation of suspect part data that can be used for process improvement and optimization.

Sigma Labs is further refining the PrintRite3D® suite to include two additional components: CONTOUR®, a layer-by-layer geometry measurement tool, and CLOSED LOOP CONTROL, consisting of software that can signal the machine controller for a corrective to offset a part beginning to deviate off design from developing into a rejected part.

“The advances being made today with in-process quality assurance in tandem with 3D additive manufacturing, are required to enable stakeholders—both military and civilian alike—to achieve their production needs,” Rice adds.