U.S. Army team tells senator, councilmember about 3-D printing to make moving parts

August 07, 2014

By Joyce P. Brayboy, ARL Public Affairs

Lt. Col Keith Morgan told legislators that U. S. Army Research Laboratory engineers want to print a micro-air vehicle that could fly.

ARL is conducting 3-D printing research in order to meet the needs of the future Soldier.

The laboratory is focused on advancing the basic scientific research to move 3-D printing from a prototyping technique to a standard tool for the Soldier to manufacture functioning parts to build mission specific platform on the battlefield.

Morgan briefed Senator Barbara A. Mikulski and Courtney Watson, vice-chairperson for Howard County Council, Monday at the 3-D Maryland Manufacturing initiative, along with Maryland business owners who talked about how they are using 3-D printing in novel ways to spur the economy.

The 3-D printing research is critical to the Army as a way to reduce the logistics chain that is cost and manpower intensive during military operations, Morgan said.

3-D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is the process of making a 3-D solid object from a digital model. The process is employed at the Edgewood Chemical and Biological Center, also a Research, Development and Engineering Command organization, to produce military equipment in support of the warfighter.

"If we can find a way to replace a part using a small and ruggedized 3-D printer, it would cut costs drastically and save lives," Morgan said.

At ARL, the goal is to developed new hardware, materials and processes that could yield entire 3-D printed systems that have circuits, power storage and logic embedded in the object itself 5 or 10 years from now, he said.

Take combining materials for multi-functionalities — ARL's goal is to convert the structural skin on a vehicle into a living skin that could sense, feel, communicate and adapt to different environments.

Small business owners like Chad Schneider, who represented Root3Labs, a prototyping and product development company, solves hard problems as well.

"I can create something from nothing with 3-D printing. For minimal cost I could hold a prototype in my hand and let a customer feel the shape and size of a product, not just see a diagram," Schneider, who performs some work at Adelphi Laboratory Center as a sub-contractor, said.

Mikulski listened to business owners to find out how the state, military, academia and businesses utilize each other to make advances in additive manufacturing.

"In Maryland, innovation and manufacturing jobs are keeping our economy rolling," Mikulski said. "This public-private partnership ... is leading the way for new ideas that will lead to new products and new jobs."

Mikulski said she was pleased with ARL as a leader in developing materials and technologies that can be utilized in various industries in Maryland such as medicine, sports, aerospace and defense. She said she believes ARL's efforts may broaden the industrial base that can take advantage of 3-D printing technology and generate jobs in Maryland.

ARL is engaged in outreach programs specifically in 3-D printing through STEM and Open Campus. Furthermore, ARL and 3-D Maryland are developing a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement. When the right partnerships are developed early enough, it minimizes the cost for everyone, Morgan said.

3-D Maryland Director Jan Baum is working with ARL to look for ways to leverage equipment, to identify needs and fill gaps in ways that work for the businesses she represents and military needs.

Baum asked in her testimony before a House committee meeting earlier this year that the Federal Government continues to support research and tech transfer programs that utilize 3-D printing technology.

"I want to show people how Maryland companies and federal institutions are using 3-D printing," Baum said. "It's when all these people get together we can find new ways to solve complex problems."

For more information about ARL's Open Campus Initiative visit http://www.arl.army.mil/www/default.cfm?page=2357


Last Update / Reviewed: August 7, 2014