Tactical printing in the Top End

Lance Corporal Sean Barton, of 1st Combat Service Support Battalion, designs spare parts to be 3D-printed using engineering software inside a mobile workshop during Exercise Buffalo Run at Mount Bundey Training Area. Photo: Corporal Rodrigo Villablanca

Tactical printing in the Top End

Top End soldiers have deployed a WarpSPEE3D metal printer to the field for the second time during a year-long trial between the Army and Darwin-based tech company, SPEE3D.

Soldiers from 1st Combat Service Support Battalion (1CSSB) used the 4500kg 3D metal printing machine to print genuine military repair parts with the patented cold-spray technology developed by SPEE3D.

In addition to the printer, 1CSSB deployed its improved machine shop facility for the first time, which enabled post-print machining and heat treatment to be conducted in the field. 

Commanding Officer of 1CSSB, Lieutenant Colonel Kane Wright, valued the benefits of custom-made solutions in the tactical environment.

“Custom made parts, designed and printed in the field, means we can get equipment back into action quickly and return it to its primary role on the battlefield,” Lieutenant Colonel Wright said.

“We can strengthen the supply chain by employing modern technology like this to make exactly what we need at short notice.”

While in the field for Exercise Buffalo Run, engineering soldiers tested new skills gained from an intensive design program in collaboration with Charles Darwin University and SPEE3D.

“Our tech-savvy soldiers now have the skills, and the technology from SPEE3D, to lessen the administration and logistics burden – to be their own solution without reaching back to base or a traditional commercial manufacturer,” Lieutenant Colonel Wright said.

SPEE3D chief executive officer Byron Kennedy said the second field deployment proved the technology was a genuine solution for expeditionary metal 3D printing. 

“This trial demonstrated the WarpSPEE3D was a robust workhorse capable of printing real parts and solving real problems in the field,” Mr Kennedy said. 

“It also proves that soldiers can take control of the whole workflow of creating the spare parts they need, from design to printing and post-processing, right there where they need them.”

The printer is capable of printing large metal parts up to 45kg, at a speed of up to 6kg per hour.


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