To keep the AAV program fully afloat through its golden years, the Marine Corps is relying on HP Metal Jet 3D printing to produce hundreds of replacement parts, including bolts, mounts, brackets, cranks and couplings.
“This is a critical part of our future, ensuring readiness of those in uniform,” says Kristin Holzworth, chief scientist for the Advanced Manufacturing Operations Cell, part of the Marine Corps Systems Command.
About 200 AAV parts have been printed on HP Metal Jet printers at Parmatech, a manufacturing company in Northern California. The technology allows the parts to be printed rapidly and in mass—a shift that doesn’t simply steady the supply chain, it provides replacement parts faster than ever, says USMC Col. Patrick M. Col. Tucker.
“Metal Jet is big advantage to us,” says Col. Tucker, commanding officer of Combat Logistics Regiment 15 at Camp Pendleton, California, where Marines train in AAVs. Col. Tucker helps manage the metal jet printing program. He also served in the Iraq War.
Traditionally, many AAV parts were made with subtractive manufacturing, a process that starts with a solid block of material that slowly gets sliced and shaped to create a specified shape. In contrast, HP Metal Jet printers precisely place up to 630 million nanogram-sized drops per second of a liquid binding agent onto a powder bed, forming a part, layer by layer. The water-based liquid is made with a polymer that binds metal particles together during printing. The powder bed is then cured or heated, leaving a solid, high-strength part.