AM for Defense Industry

Are qualification and certification needed when deploying AM equipment during operations?

How do you deal with certifications when you 3D print parts in the middle of nowhere during a mission? That’s one of the questions raised at the 2nd Virtual AM for Defense Conference. Do you have to apply the same requirements at that time as at the home base, where the parts are delivered from the supply chain?


Stefan Ritt, Vice President EMEA at Spee3D, presented testresults from the Australian Army with Spee3D’s metal printer at the second session of the online conference. In a pilot, the printer was deployed at various locations under different circumstances, including temperatures up to more then 40 degrees and humidity up to 80%. The container in which the metal printer is integrated is equipped with technology to monitor and control humidity, among other things. The Navy has also invested in Spee3D technology.

Thursday 10 December is the last online session of the Virtual AM for Defense Conference. Col. Joe Bookard, director of US Army Rapid Equipping Force, will speak about the role of additive manufacturing to make army equipment and units rapidly deployable. This will be followed by a roundtable discussion with speakers from the previous sessions. 3D print magazine gives away 10 free tickets for the closing session. Use the code AMfordefense2020 to get free access.

A camlock 3D printed by the Australian navy with the Spee3D metalprinter.

Certify or not?

Onno Pontfoort, consultant at Beerenschot, said during the discussion at the conference that there is a difference between parts produced in the field and parts used at a homebase. “There is a big difference between production in the field or for stock at home base. For the latter, certification often applies when purchasing parts. Any ministry of defense that buys parts will look for certification. In the field you have to decide on actions in a split second. These are very different circumstances.” Onno Ponfoort, who gave a presentation about the development of standards for additive manufacturing during, says that standardization and certification remain important, even if the parts only have to last a day.

100 certainty does not exist

Stefan Ritt is in favor of certification but warns that you can never check everything one hundred percent. As an example, he pointed to the European regulations for cars: a model is admitted on the basis of testing under certain conditions. But if you exceed these limits while using the car or make changes between regulated checks, the car is no longer safe. “Is 150 percent a guarantee for a safe life? We can only meet basic scenarios, but that’s a percentage of safety. I don’t want unsafe technology, but we always find circumstances that no one has thought of”.

Standards needed to use AM

Onno Ponfoort thinks AM standards are also needed for another reason: only if there are standards certain sectors will full implement additive manufacturing in the value chain. “When guidelines are ready, we can develop recommended practices and standards.” He also pointed out that you can qualify the machines and processes in such a container in which 3D printers are integrated. If you then monitor the conditions, such as the temperature, and adjust your process accordingly, it’s enough to qualify the mobile production center.

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