Australian Army bolsters supply chain with metal 3D printing

Australian Army bolsters supply chain with metal 3D printing

Top Stories | Mar 7, 2020:


The Australian Army is utilizing metal 3D printing technology to make its supply chain more resilient and to reduce the time it takes to get replacement parts into the hands of Soldiers in the field.

The Army in February 2020 announced an AU $1.5 million trial (U.S. $983,000) that will take place over the next year in partnership with Charles Darwin University and the Melbourne-based company SPEE3D. It follows a similar trial launched in November 2019 by the university and the Australian Navy.

Soldiers will be trained on how to use the company’s metal 3D metal printer, which will be deployed in the field for multiple Army exercises, the company said in a news release. Australian Soldiers will learn how to design and print parts by using metal cold spray technology to produce parts in minutes, rather than days or weeks, the company said. (Pictured: Australian Army Soldiers learn about 3D printing technology at Charles Darwin University.)

The aim of the program is to significantly increase the supply of parts available to the Army compared with what the regular supply chain provides. “This is another very exciting announcement for SPEE3D and the Australian Defence Force,” SPEE3D chief executive Byron Kennedy said on the company’s website. “This Army program, in parallel with a similar project happening with the Royal Australian Navy, will enable the Australian Defence Force to grow our sovereign capability and lead the world in the field of additive manufacturing.”

The Australian Army hopes the technology will alleviate the need for Soldiers to carry large quantities of replacement parts, which will improve their mobility and reduce the time it takes to deploy the parts. “This partnership with CDU and SPEE3D shows that we as an Army are looking to the future and embracing advanced technologies to speed up our processes,” Australian Army Lt. Col. Kane Wright said. Wright is the commanding officer of the Australian Army’s 1st Combat Service Support Battalion, according to a report in the 3D printing industry’s TCT Magazine. “At maturity, we see it becoming an essential enabler that will redefine how logistics is employed to support our dependencies on the future battlefield.”

A university official said the application of 3D printing technology could revolutionize the way the Army does business. Simon Maddocks, vice chancellor and president of Charles Darwin University, visited Soldiers in the classroom, according to a report in Australian Defence Magazine. “This 3D printing technology has the potential to change the way many industries, including defense, design, manufacture and supply parts,” Maddocks said. The university, he added, has become a “center of excellence in exploring and applying this new technology and we’re pleased to have such eager professional Soldiers join us to learn this new skill set.”

The university and the Army also are developing an educational program that covers the fundamentals of design, 3D modeling and printing.