Deployable Metal Additive Manufacturing Combats Supply Chain Challenges in the Field

J. Heerdink
Snowbird Technologies,
United States

Keywords: additive manufacturing, subtractive manufacturing, deployable, point of need, directed energy deposition


Introduction The availability of repair and replacement parts for equipment in austere environments remains a critical challenge for expeditionary defense forces and remote industrial operations (i.e. oil and gas, mining, etc.). Traditional supply chain and logistics channels are unreliable and can leave operators in potentially dangerous situations and directly impact business or mission operations. Advanced 3D printing capabilities have led to the testing and deployment of additive manufacturing in defense settings. These solutions have brought the parts inventory closer to the field but are characterized as stationary units not designed to be moved once installed, resulting in parts delivery delays to operators in remote environments. In addition, these systems are often restricted to the production of small parts and limited production materials, mostly plastics, which does not aid machinery that requires larger, metal components. Therefore, deficiencies still exist in utilizing additive manufacturing to improve delivery times, the factor of proximity to the end user, and the machine’s part-size production capability. To maintain readiness and reduce the risks of global supply chains, logistics, and raw materials shortages, other means of procurement must be established. Additive manufacturing (AM) is a viable solution. In the right configuration, AM is the answer for point-of-need production in austere environments. Proposed Solution Snowbird Additive Mobile Manufacturing Technology – SAMM Tech – is a deployable metal additive manufacturing system integrated into a single intermodal shipping container that can sustain operations at speed and scale. The SAMM Tech system is based on a patented gantry design that is built into the frame of the container. This maximizes usable print area, offering up to 250 cubic feet of printing space. Designed with both additive and subtractive manufacturing capabilities, SAMM Tech can produce high-tolerance interim or end-use parts for equipment, machine, and system repairs in a matter of hours. This is the answer to combating prolonged supply chain lead times. This robust solution does not rely on physical tooling, an onsite parts inventory, or a stable and controlled environment. Rather, SAMM Tech platforms are designed to successfully produce parts in remote, harsh environments – the same in which warfighters and industrial workers operate. Mobility allows for easy transportation with other equipment to forward operating bases and remote environments and is ready for use within minutes of set up. The system utilizes readily available raw materials, such as standard weld wire and compressed inert gas. Value and Benefits The benefits of deployable additive manufacturing for logistics and readiness are numerous and include on-demand parts production in proximity to the end user; production of complex and obsolete parts; reduction of inventoried parts; reduction of equipment downtime and failures; and improvement of mission self-sufficiency and sustainment. Conclusion SAMM Tech is the future of defense and industrial supply chains. Onsite, on-demand parts production meets operators where they are in the field. This reliable logistics capability is a game-changer in battle and business strategy and ensures that operations can be sustained and supported.