MatterHackers, the largest US retailer of desktop 3D printers and materials, announced that the company has been awarded a 5-year NAVAIR (Naval Air Systems Command) Level 1 Additive Manufacturing System contract by the US Navy. During the contract, the company would provide printers, filament, IT and support, as well as maintenance, as well as on-the-job training by Building Momentum. As the largest contract awarded by the Navy for 3D printers, it shows the continued commitment to additive manufacturing by various branches of the armed forces in the United States and around the world.
The Navy has been interested in the subject of AM for some time thanks to its speed but also for its ability to create spare parts. For example, last February, we told you about the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) which adopted Xerox’s 3D printer, ElemX, for a collaborative research project on additive manufacturing capabilities for the Navy and Marine Corps. Marines. One of the applications under study included the possibility of creating spare parts, particularly on ships on the high seas, although tooling work was also noted. Now, with the awarding of this five-year IDIQ contract, it is clear that the Navy continues to see the value of additive manufacturing. Or as Mr. Robert Kimble, Director of NAVAIR’s Naval Sustainment Group commented “The IDIQ provides our Warfighters with the much needed ability to print parts at the point where they need them.”
The contract between MatterHackers and the US Navy
The contract will make MatterHackers a one-stop-shop for the additive manufacturing needs of NAVAIR, Naval Air Systems Command. And it was not by mistake that the company was chosen, but rather because of its extensive relationships with industry suppliers due to its status as the largest 3D printing retailer in the United States. Additionally, it also had a prior relationship with the US military as it fulfilled a previous contract which provided 3D printers and training at the I MEF Additive Manufacturing Training Center at Camp Pendleton.
The agreement will include not only the shipment of additive manufacturing systems to US Navy bases and machinery across the US and overseas, but also components such as training. This is crucial because one of the biggest barriers that has been identified for the successful implementation of AM has been the lack of education in critical areas like Design for AM (DfAM). MatterHackers partner Building Momentum, an immersive training and interactive learning company that often uses 3D printers, will provide the hands-on training to any base receiving a Tier 1 additive manufacturing system. According to the press release, the company will also provide follow-up training for advanced materials and problem solving throughout the five-year contract period.
In terms of actual printers provided, the Ultimaker S5 was identified by MatterHackers as the best for the effort. According to MatterHackers, this was due to several reasons, including, but not limited to, “Its large-scale build volume, catalog of materials compatible with NFC chips for ease of use, secure design options, and powerful Cura software.” Ultimately, the deployment of the Ultimaker S5 Desktop Polymer System to Fleet Readiness Centers, Marine Aviation Logistics Squadrons, and associated Expeditionary Units represents the first step in a three-tiered approach to putting implement AM in the fleet. Downstream, they are also interested in deploying systems for printing industrial polymer and metal parts. If you want to know more about the contract, you can find more information HERE.
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*Cover photo credits: US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class John Herman/Released