America Makes Supports EARTH 3D Printing Project with $1.2M Funding


Regular funding from the Biden Administration ensures that it’s always a season of gifting at America Makes. The definitive advanced manufacturing in the U.S. has recently announced they will be dismissing $1.2 million to support the Environmental Additive Research for Tomorrow’s Habitat (EARTH) Project. This project is sponsored by both the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense, Research and Engineering Manufacturing Technology Office (OSD(R&E)) and the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). EARTH is devoted to identifying and validating the eligibility of AM designs and materials, ensuring they regularly meet the necessary qualifications and performance standards for the end users.

“The potential environmental impact of AM innovations in the manufacturing industry is a matter of consideration, even as investments into research and development persist. We laud the endeavours of the beneficiaries in considering sustainable methods for reusing and recycling of AM materials and designs. These strategies are anticipated to have a significant influence on waste reduction, energy conservation, and finding ways to reduce carbon emissions. The futuristic ideology of our industry partners illustrates their commitment to understanding sustainable AM procedures that will affect the future implementation of the technology across diverse sectors,” stated Brandon Ribic, Technology Director at America Makes.

The primary focus within the subject matter labelled – ‘Analysis of AM Sustainability and Environmental Benefits’, will be ‘Accelerating Additive Manufacturing in Department of Defense (DoD) Applications using High-Performance Recycled Polymers.’ This project will be directed by IC3D, a supplier of 3D printing filaments and services. This project will see collaboration of renowned academical institutions: The Ohio State University and Harrisburg University. Additionally, 3D printing consultancy, 3Degrees, led by Mike Vasquez, will contribute their expertise to the team. It’s significant to note that 3Degrees has been awarded with a $50,000 grant previously to construct a comprehensive 3D printing materials database.

The subsequent initiative, christened ‘Powder and Process Optimization for Sustainable Additive Manufacturing (POSAM),’ will be directed by the RTX Technology Research Center, a division of Collins Aerospace and subsequently a part of Raytheon. Collaborating on this part of the project are the University of Arizona and 6K Additive. It’s interesting to see how efficiently 6K Additive has become a part of various U.S. government 3D printing projects. Their competency in achieving government contracts has been genuinely prodigious.

Observing the dedication of the Air Force and the Department of Defense (DoD) towards recycling and environmental measures is heartening. These efforts demonstrate their awareness of our unique planet’s value and their strategy to protect it.

Contrary to how they might appear, these initiatives have greater significance than whimsical attempts. The DoD, in executing its responsibilities, regularly faces expenses amounting to thousands of dollars per kilogram when shipping equipment to troops on the frontlines. Problems often surface, caused by design issues or repurposing of inventory for new settings. These difficult situations, characterized by urgent demand for specific gear, expose the shortcomings of conventional supply chains.

Against this backdrop, 3D printing comes forward as an essential solution. Its capacity to swiftly generate required items closely where they’re needed can dramatically slash the timeframe compared to conventional manufacturing methods, potentially shrinking it from several months to only days or hours. In addition, 3D printing provides unmatched flexibility, allowing easy modification of existing equipment for new uses or performance enhancement. This agility in production could revolutionize industries, especially in high-tension situations where prompt actions are critical.

The potential financial savings from incorporating 3D printing into military operations could touch the hundreds of millions. Augmenting the economic advantages, the operational repercussions, too, cannot be overlooked. For instance, missing the right part could incapacitate an aircraft. In circumstances where swiftly altering components to guarantee aircraft safety is demanded due to new threats, conventional manufacturing approaches might be inadequate. 3D printing, with its rapidity and flexibility, could become instrumental in meeting such emergent demands.

But, what of all the scrap? How often could high-performance thermoplastic ULTEM be used in Material Extrusion? And what happens to the material properties of the parts when they are recycled? What about the same grade of ULTEM but now with short carbon fiber in it, how could you reuse that component? Its reuse, especially after recycling, raises questions about the integrity of material properties. The scenario becomes even more complex when considering ULTEM compounded with short carbon fibers – how does one repurpose such materials without compromising quality or safety?

For polymers and powders, the process of reuse and recycling doesn’t just offer economic advantages; it can be lifesaving and strategically decisive in conflicts. To harness these benefits effectively, the America Makes teams will need to delve into the nuances of material properties, performance, and fatigue. They must also master the art of recycling components in a way that preserves their usability. If these challenges are met successfully, 3D printing could see even greater adoption in military applications, revolutionizing logistics, sustainability, and operational efficiency.

Original source


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