AM for Defense Industry

AM for defense: less waste, shorter leadtimes and new businessmodels

Insights for participants Virtual AM for Defense Conference

Additive manufacturing offers unprecedented opportunities in the defense industry and beyond. The technology is ready to produce certain aircraft parts in a more sustainable way, faster and with less waste. And with digital warehouses and local 3D printing, the operational deployment of military equipment can be increased significantly. These are some conclusions of the first session of the Virtual AM for Defense Conference.


The participants in the first virtual conference in a series of three, got insight information about how the Royal Netherlands Army is implementing additive manufacturing and why for a Danish defense supplier 3D metalprinting is a better solution than CNC-machining a part for the F-35.

We are going to buy just like in iTunes, pay per print

Stephan Wildenberg, Dutch army

23% of 20,000 parts in warehouse printable

For example, Tibor van Melsem Kocsis, CEO of DiManEx, presented the results of an analysis of some 20,000 parts in the warehouses of the Dutch army. Of these, 23 percent are suitable for 3D printing. The rest cannot be 3D printed, because either the material is not suitable, the parts are too big or for other reasons. The 23 percent that you can print, illustrates the potential of the transition to digital warehouses, according to Tibor, who gave a presentation together with Major Stephan Wildenberg on how the DoD in The Netherlands, together with DiManEx, is taking steps towards digital warehousing. According to Tibor van Melsem Kocsis, the demand for this is not only increasing in the defense sector, but in all sectors where supply chains are complex. “In the pandemic we see that supply chains are suddenly more risky than ever imagined”.

Some of the parts that were selected for the digital warehouse of the Dutch army.

Pay by iTunes

Whoever takes the step to digital warehouses must develop new business models and create new contracts with the supply chain. “We are going to buy just like in iTunes, pay per print,” said Stephan Wildenberg. Among other things, he emphasized the fact that additive manufacturing should not be approached as a technology but as a solution to increase the operational deployability of the equipment. AM has to do with purchasing, with contracts with suppliers, with the soldiers at the front or on mission. “That is where the biggest challenge lies: involving people, taking them with us on the journey.” Because, added Tibor van Melsem Kocsis: “Additive manufacturing can only be successful if the entire process is integrated into the supply chain”. DiManEx’s experience is that 60 to 80 percent of the parts in warehouses are not or hardly used. “So here is an opportunity for improvement. But the whole value chain needs to see this.”

Sustainability will become one of the drivers for additive manufacturing

Michel Honoré, FORCE Technology

Stop wasting resources

Michel Honoré of the Danish Force Technology took a deep dive in the technology of 3D metal printing. Force Technology, together with a Danish supplier for the F-35 fighter, made a comparison between 3D printing a part (530 mm high, over 20 cm in diameter at the base) and CNC milling. The latter means that you mill 219 kilograms of solid material for 120 hours on a CNC-machinetool to end up with a part weighing only 9 kilograms. And the material used is expensive: 15-5PH, twice as expensive as 316L. “So there is a lot of waste at CNC machining,” says Honoré. He thinks that sustainability will become one of the important themes in the manufacturing industry. And that will be a driver for additive manufacturing.

Force Technology

Additive manufacturing shortened leadtime with 90 percent

The most important benefit, however, is that the leadtime for the part is reduced by more than 90%. Force Technology printed the part for the F-35 on the self-built DED (laser metal deposition) installation in 4.5 hours vs 120 hours CNC milling. After the milling process, only a HIP treatment was needed to make the part isotropic. The mechanical properties are comparable to the part milled from solid material. “3D metal printing is no longer limited to polymers. Thanks to the new robot features, you no longer have to think in a small box, but you can also print parts of several meters”. In addition, this technology offers the opportunity for refurbishing and remanufacturing. “Additive manufacturing is green and smart”, said Michel Honoré

The second session of the Virtual AM for Defense Conference will take place on Tuesday 3 November. Speakers will be Stephan Ritt, who will discuss the results of tests Spee3D is doing with the Australian Army; Onno Ponfoort van Berenschot who will discuss certification and Luis Ignacio Suárez-Ríos, Manufacturing Engineer at the Spanish Idonial. He deals with large format 3D printing and bioprinting. Here you can find more information and sign up for the second session.

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