Additive Warfighters - PerceptEngine Department of Defense Integration

- Picatinny Arsenal, Morris County New Jersey - 

The U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, also known as ARDEC, is a world-renowned group, within the U.S. Army Material Command, that focuses on the advancement of armament technologies and engineering innovation. ARDEC supports Army efforts to ensure Soldier survivability and enhance platform and area protection by providing engineering, design and development support. This support is essential to the rapid delivery of critical technologies to U.S. Warfighters. Beyond paving the way for new technology adoption, ARDEC provides life-cycle support for nearly 90 percent of the lethal Army systems utilized by U.S. Warfighters across the globe. 

ARDEC's principal mission is to mature technologies for armament applications while also looking for ways to transfer beneficial  and innovative technologies to the public domain for industrial & consumer applications. ARDEC's manufacturing technology program is currently transferring a variety of technologies to U.S. industry such as model-based control and environmentally safer manufacturing methods.

With the rise of 3D-Printing as a potential solution for end-use parts, ARDEC has been tasked with developing methods to implement this technology on the battle field. Their current solution, Rapid Fabrication via Additive Manufacturing on the Battlefield (R-FAB), is an easily transportable mobile manufacturing workstation that includes several 3D printers and scanners along with other traditional manufacturing equipment.

 The Army's R-FAB unit exterior

The Army's R-FAB unit exterior

 Inside the R-FAB unit at the Combined Resolve exercise in Germany

Inside the R-FAB unit at the Combined Resolve exercise in Germany

R-FAB's main purpose is to provide soldiers the ability to locally fabricate hard-to-acquire vehicle parts and equipment that would otherwise take a long time to deliver to a remote location. A recent demonstration of the R-FAB during the Combined Resolve exercises in Hohenfels, Germany showcased the units ability to effectively fabricate components for vehicles, critical life support systems, and weapon platforms on demand.

 An M4 assault rifle with 3D-printed magazine well and foregrip made with the ARDEC R-FAB unit

An M4 assault rifle with 3D-printed magazine well and foregrip made with the ARDEC R-FAB unit

However, Additive Manufacturing has draw backs that hinder wide spread adoption and implementation of 3D-Printing technology. Specific to the R-FAB, the existing 3D-Printing equipment is not easy to learn and does not collect any traceability or quality information during the fabrication process. This means that users must have high levels of training to operate the 3D-Printers and if the operator does not collect and record quality information for printed parts, then that information is lost forever. Without quality & traceability reports for each fabricated component, it is difficult to discern who printed what and when as well as how well did a specific part print. Currently, if there is an error during the 3D-Printing process, the printers are not smart enough to fix the issue or alert an operator for assistance.

 DoD & Technical Personnel review PerceptEngine R-FAB integration

DoD & Technical Personnel review PerceptEngine R-FAB integration

Started in 2015, Solid Innovations, LLC, set out to create new and innovative solutions to tackle these problems facing Additive users. Originally started as a manufacturing software company, Solid Innovations focuses on creating solutions that make manufacturing equipment intelligent.

Solid Innovations' current mission is centered on building user friendly software that makes 3D-Printers 'Smart' in the pursuit of making Additive an easier technology to use. Their patented Smart 3D-Printing technology automatically creates quality & traceability reports for every printed part while also autonomously fixing errors during the printing process.

The Department of Defense has contracted Solid Innovations to work with the ARDEC in order to implement this Smart 3D-Printing technology in manufacturing environments including the R-FAB.

The implementation of Solid Innovations' Smart 3D-Printing software automates the repetitive steps of the Additive workflow and decreases soldier training requirements for 3D-Printer utilization. Easier 3D-Printing technology enhances soldier effectiveness and equipment customization while simultaneously allowing soldiers to remain in the fight.

 

Interested in learning about Solid Innovations' vision? Check out our blog!