Additive Manufacturing’s Ripple Effect caused by the Ukraine Conflict.


The world is experiencing a significant shift in manufacturing due to recent world events, but it’s worth considering if this change is also being reflected in additive manufacturing. The pandemic, with all its disruptions, has caused a lot of chaos, and only now are things starting to return to a semblance of normalcy. While the situation may not be the same as it was before, it does seem to be heading towards a more sustainable trajectory.

However, amidst all this, there is one event that is causing a notable change in the manufacturing landscape – the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. This conflict, which has been going on since February of last year and shows no signs of abating, has resulted in the destruction of massive quantities of military equipment on a daily basis. According to the latest report from the Ukrainian side, Russia alone has lost over 4,600 tanks, almost 9,000 armored vehicles, and 6,300 artillery systems. That is an astounding number of items.

While the exact losses suffered by Ukraine are not published, one can assume that they are also significant. In response to this conflict, the Western countries have been supplying Ukraine with significant weaponry, mostly comprising of surplus items that would otherwise have to be disposed of using expensive procedures. However, whether it’s new or old, the equipment needs to be replaced. The movement of such equipment has even prompted various countries to make new acquisitions. Out with the old, in with the new.

Of course, this “new” equipment needs to be manufactured, and it’s highly likely that some of its components will be produced using additive manufacturing processes. However, this is a slow and gradual process, so I have been observing the 3D printing community for several months now, looking for signs of this shift. Finally, yesterday, I came across something that fits this pattern perfectly – 6K Additive’s recent announcement of a new deal with the US military.

According to this deal, 6K Additive has secured a “blanket purchase agreement” with the US Army Development Command to manufacture “strategic high-performance metal powders”. This agreement was the result of a competitive bidding process conducted by the military. Under this agreement, the US Army will utilize 6K Additive’s proprietary UniMelt microwave-based system to produce significant quantities of metal powder. This powder will be used to support the development of prototypes and small-volume production.

The UniMelt system is highly capable of transforming scrap metal into high-quality powder that can be used in additive manufacturing systems, particularly those employing the Laser Powder Bed Fusion (LPBF) technique. One of the key advantages of this system is that it allows the military to source domestically produced and fully traceable materials. This guarantees both the reliability and origin of the metal powder used in manufacturing.

6K Additive highlights some key benefits of this partnership, including:

1. Enhanced domestic sourcing: The agreement allows the US military to procure metal powder from domestic sources, reducing dependence on imports.

2. Traceability: The UniMelt system ensures full traceability of the metal powder, leading to improved accountability and quality control.

3. Support for prototyping and small-volume production: The metal powder produced will be utilized in the development of prototypes and small-scale manufacturing, enabling rapid iteration and innovation.

While this development isn’t necessarily the groundbreaking additive manufacturing breakthrough that will bridge the manufacturing gap created by the conflict, it certainly marks a significant step in the right direction. The partnership between 6K Additive and the US military exemplifies the potential of additive manufacturing in addressing the challenges posed by manufacturing disruptions and conflicts. Through innovative solutions like the UniMelt system, additive manufacturing can play a crucial role in meeting evolving manufacturing needs and supporting strategic initiatives.

All in all, it’s fascinating to see how additive manufacturing is adapting and evolving in response to the changing world around us. As these technologies continue to mature, we can expect even more innovative applications and solutions to emerge, enabling us to overcome manufacturing hurdles and build a more resilient and sustainable future.

Source: 6K Additive

Original source


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