DefenseHigh Speed 3D PrintingMetal Additive ManufacturingUK

The British Army integrates 3D printing through Project Brokkr

Developing the capability to 3D print metal objects using cold spraying, or Supersonic Particular Deposition (SPD)

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The British Army is pioneering the integration of 3D printing technology in the field through Project Brokkr, an initiative that mobilizes metal manufacturing processes usually confined to lab environments.

The British Army’s journey with additive manufacturing began in earnest in 2019 when the Royal Engineers, during their deployment in South Sudan for Op TRENTON, utilized 3D printing to produce plumbing fittings essential for setting up a field hospital. This operation highlighted the technology’s efficiency and versatility, particularly in remote locations where traditional supply chains are inaccessible. Initially using basic equipment akin to hobbyist tools, the Army quickly recognized the broader potential of this technology and has since advanced to more sophisticated methods.

Currently, the British Army has developed the capability to print metal objects using cold spraying, or Supersonic Particular Deposition (SPD). Unlike other methods that use intense heat to fuse particles, SPD accelerates metal powder through a nozzle at speeds up to Mach 3, allowing for the deposition of the material onto a substrate based on computer-aided designs. This method is notably faster than heat-based systems and is capable of producing larger objects more efficiently.

The British Army integrates 3D printing through Project Brokkr - developing the capability to 3D print metal objects using cold spraying.

9 Battalion Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers (REME) has been instrumental in advancing this capability, ensuring that these high-tech processes are ruggedized for field use. This adaptation allows the Army to deploy these capabilities as tactical assets in various environments, a significant evolution from the static use in sterile labs seen in other countries’ applications of the technology.

Lieutenant Colonel John Anthistle, the commanding officer of 9 REME, emphasized that while cold spraying is an innovative approach, it is part of a broader spectrum of additive manufacturing. The process encompasses several stages from design to post-manufacture treatments like heat treating and milling, integrating traditional skills and trades found within the Corps.

Recently, 9 REME showcased their mobile 3D metal printing technology in Germany during the ‘Field Army Additive Manufacturing Concentration’. Following this, the technology will be demonstrated in Belgium at the Additive Manufacturing Village, a military showcase hosted by the European Defence Agency, underscoring the British Army’s leadership in adopting and adapting new technologies for enhanced field operations.

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Edward Wakefield

Edward is a freelance writer and additive manufacturing enthusiast looking to make AM more accessible and understandable.

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