NATICK, Mass. --- The addition of the world's largest 3D printer will lead to revolutionary innovations for the Soldier and bolster the already strong collaborative relationship between the University of Maine and the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center.
The new 3D printer, which has been acquired by the University of Maine, will enable the rapid creation of large products for the Soldier, as noted by Professor Habib Joseph Dagher, PhD, PE, who is the executive director at the Advanced Structures and Composites Center, or ASCC, at the University of Maine.
"We are appreciative of the long successful partnership between the UMaine ASCC and the Natick CCDC Soldier Center, and the recent cooperation on large-scale 3D printing," said Dagher. "The new printer is uniquely suited for accelerating the prototyping of large new products to benefit the Soldier."
"The new 3D Printer will really help drive the collaboration," said Col. Frank Moore, military deputy for the CCDC Soldier Center. "They are the only facility right now that can print on this size and this scale and do this kind of 3D manufacturing, which will revolutionize how the Army prototypes and manufactures shelters, vehicles and other large systems."
The CCDC Soldier Center is dedicated to using science and technology to ensure America's warfighters are optimized, protected and lethal. CCDC SC supports all of the Army's Modernization efforts, with the Soldier Lethality and Synthetic Training Environment Cross Functional Teams being the CCDC SC's chief areas of focus. The center's science and engineering expertise are combined with collaborations with industry, DOD, and academia to advance Soldier and squad performance.
The center supports the Army as it transforms from being adaptive to driving innovation to support a Multi-Domain Operations Capable Force of 2028 and a MDO Ready Force of 2035. CCDC SC is constantly working to strengthen Soldiers' performance to increase readiness and support for warfighters who are organized, trained, and equipped for prompt and sustainable ground combat.
CCDC SC's Expeditionary Maneuver Support Directorate, or EMSD, has long worked with the University of Maine, particularly the university's Advanced Structures and Composites Center, on a wide variety of advanced technologies, including the Improved Modular Ballistic Protection System.
The new 3D printer, which was unveiled recently during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the University of Maine, will enable the creation/printing of new products and prototypes and can produce objects up to 100 feet long.
"The partnership between the University of Maine and the Soldier Center has resulted in a new 3D printing capability for large scale structures," said Claudia Quigley, director of the Expeditionary Maneuver Support Directorate at CCDC SC. "Until now, the use of additive manufacturing has been limited to small structures. This new capability will allow the Army to apply additive manufacturing principles to the development of large structures, revolutionizing the Army's ability to design and ultimately produce Army equipment, such as shelters and command posts. What was demonstrated at the ribbon cutting ceremony is only the beginning. There are opportunities to develop new high strength structural composite materials, to optimize designs for new Army technologies, to develop new design processes for full scale manufacturability, and then to rapidly produce Army equipment.
This 3D printing capability for large structures supports Army readiness and modernization initiatives in a multi-domain environment. This research work closely aligns with Army Directive 2019-29, Army Advanced Manufacturing Policy, and the CCDC Additive Manufacturing Science and Technology Plan. The Soldier Center looks forward to its continued partnership with the University of Maine and other DOD partners to advance the state of the art in the 3D printing of large structures."
Overall, advanced manufacturing techniques, such as 3D printing, have the potential to enable the Army to more quickly address Soldier needs.
"The S-280, a vehicle mounted shelter, is the very first 3D-printed, full-scale shelter," said Connie E. Miles-Patrick, team leader for EMSD's Systems Development and Engineering Team at CCDC SC. "It was printed in 48 hours, significantly faster than other construction methods. For the Expeditionary Maneuver Support Directorate at the Soldier Center, this new 3D printing capability will allow Army scientists and engineers to prototype and evaluate new technologies, at full scale, for form, fit and function early in the technology development process.
“EMSD develops structural technologies that are large, over twenty feet long and 8 feet high. By having the ability to evaluate these preliminary designs as full scale prototypes, we will be able to accelerate the technology development process and deliver new critical capabilities to our Soldiers more rapidly. The development of this capability is closely aligned with our AFC mission and Army priorities."