MELD and CEO, Nanci Hardwick, were presented with the Advanced Concepts Award at the 2022 Additive Manufacturing Users Group (AMUG) Conference. The annual conference was held in Chicago, Illinois. The Advanced Concepts award recognizes individuals and their companies for outstanding work in additive manufacturing technology. The first-place award was a result of MELD’s involvement with the U.S. Army’s Jointless Hull Program.
In 2021 the U.S. Army announced that the MELD technology will be used in a new machine to print jointless or monolithic vehicle hulls. This solves a long-standing vulnerability in welded aluminum-hulled combat vehicles. The U.S. Army Manufacturing Technology (ManTech) project, which is called Affordable Protection from Objective Threats (APOT), conducted testing over several years to determine the cause and find a solution. It was found that the hulls consistently failed at the same point – the welds. Therefore, they needed a way to build the hulls without the faulty welds. With the MELD technology, they are able to build the hull in one piece. The machine will be the world’s largest metal 3D printer. It will be capable of printing parts that are 20 feet x 30 feet x 12 feet tall.
Other members of the team, led by ASTRO America, include LIFT, Ingersoll Machine Tool, and Siemens. For the First Place Advanced Concepts Award, the technology was selected due to its novel nature. MELD Manufacturing is the inventor of the patented, award-winning MELD process. It is a solid-state process for 3D printing metal; the metal never reaches its melting point. Parts are printed fully dense and don’t require further processing such as hot isostatic pressing (HIP) or sintering to improve the quality of the
material. Parts are printed in near-net shapes so there is less material waste.