3D Printing Being Used to Produce Missiles by the US Missile Defence Agency

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Being light weight, stronger and 3D printed does not only make the planes , trains and automobiles work more efficiently because US Missile Defence Agency has turned to ExOne to produce silicon carbide components. The three-year deal is worth more than 1.5 million and the outcome should be lighter, faster and more efficient missiles that can travel further on a set fuel load. A binder jetting technique employed by ExOne is perfect for this job.

In order to create a solid object in a particular shape, binder jetting includes using a liquid binder which is selectively applied to powder particles. It has several uses and can be used to produce finished products in metal, sand and ceramic. As Silicon Carbide is a ceramic, therefore, after the initial binder jetting process, post curing might be required.

Owing to the resistance to high temperatures and general durability, Silicon Carbide is a hard wearing ceramic which is often used in high-performance brakes in sports cars. This is why it is perfect for the missile support structures that the MDA is interested in printing.

ExOne’s Chief Technology Officer, Rick Lucas stated:

“We are pleased to have the opportunity to work on this exciting project with the MDA.  This application demonstrates the unique benefits of our binder jetting technology as it applies to direct printing; in this instance we will be developing silicon carbide materials for missile component support structures.

Compared with traditional designs, our 3D printed components will allow the MDA to improve its ballistic missile defence system performance and reduce weight through unique designs and materials, which are key benefits of binder jetting 3D printing for this and many other industries.”

3D Printing Being Used to Produce Missiles by the US Missile Defence Agency (1)

Industrial 3D printers are provided by ExOne which is at the cutting edge of binder jetting technology. Parts of up to 735 x 355 x 355 mm can be manufactured using its printers in ExOne’s patented Nickel-based superalloy, IN Alloy 625, and other metals that have found favour as impellers and turbine blades that have to bear up unbelievable forces.

Printers that are capable of producing sand cores and molds for rapid casting of one-off or limited run components that can go up to 2200 x 1200 x 700mm, are also the specialization of the company.  Very large structures can be built by means of the process of binder jetting, for instance, architectural structures as big as a room have been manufactured via this process. However, the silicon carbide missile parts are expected to be smaller than that.

In order to perfect their designs, 3D printing should give it the capacity to indulge in more real world experimentation. In addition to this, it also gives them the ability to stock up quickly if the worst happens and the US suddenly needs a large amount of short or long-range missiles. It’s just in time manufacturing, with the fate of the nation at stake.

There is a payoff for the man and woman in the street here. The capacity to stock up the armoury in a hurry means that the US government does not need to stockpile weapons to the same extent. This implies that it can just have the strategies and the production ready to go at all times, however, there is no necessity to manufacture the missiles that we all hope will never be needed. Hypothetically, the US Military is capable of producing missiles and other weapons on site in the future due to 3D printing which is a huge benefit.

3D Printing Being Used to Produce Missiles by the US Missile Defence Agency (2)

As an industry, 3D printing should take this as yet another ringing endorsement. Missiles and military equipment just need to work perfectly and the focus of MDA towards 3D printed parts on a much larger scale is the obvious indication of the rising confidence in additive manufacturing.