Defense

April 3, 2013

State-of-the-art 3D printers cut costs, turnaround time

Engineering Tech Mikael Mead of Tobyhanna Army Depot, Penn., removes a small production run of finished lens covers from the printing tray of a polyjet 3-D printer. Three-dimensional printers produce parts out of plastic and other durable materials.

Engineers and technicians at Tobyhanna Army Depot, Penn., use a highly innovative, cutting-edge fabrication process to significantly cut costs and reduce turnaround time.

The depot’s additive manufacturing process uses two, three-dimensional 3-D printers to produce parts out of plastic and other durable materials. Unlike traditional design methods where a part is made from a block of material and the excess is discarded, additive manufacturing uses only material necessary for the part, saving money and minimizing waste.

Electronics Engineer Corey Sheakoski said the benefits and potential of this process are nearly unlimited.

“Tobyhanna has the ability to make any type of plastic part, as long as we have a 3D model for it and it fits within a certain set of dimensions,” he said. Sheakoski works in the Production Engineering Directorate’s, or PED’s, Mission Software Branch.

Recently, a shortage of parts was delaying delivery of Harris radios. The radios required the installation of small dust caps prior to shipping to the customer. Finding and getting the part from a vendor could have taken weeks; so instead, Mechanical Engineer Eugene Haikes designed a 3-D model of the part and the depot printed 600 dust caps in 16 hours.

Mikael Mead, engineering tech in PED’s Design and Development Branch, said the decision to make the part at the depot saved a substantial amount of money and precious time.

“If the depot wanted to produce the dust caps but didn’t have a rubber mold for them, we could have expected to pay anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000 for the mold,” said Mead. “Because Eugene was able to come up with the model, we were able to produce the caps for only a dollar apiece while trimming days, if not weeks, off of our anticipated delivery date.”

Haikes, who works in PED’s Manufacturing Engineering Branch, said the whole process provides added benefit to both the depot and the customer.

“Some parts can be made through 3-D printing that just cannot be produced by conventional methods,” he said. “Other advantages with this process are that machine time is not charged to the customer and it can run overnight and during the weekend.”

Tobyhanna has been using additive manufacturing since the arrival of the first 3-D printer in the fall of 2006. The process begins with a computerized 3-D model that is programmed into one of two high-tech printers. The machine then builds a part, layer by layer, based on the model’s design.

The depot’s first 3-D printer, a fused deposition modeling machine, or FDM, is capable of making parts out of ABS plastic within a 10 x 10 x 12 in. area. The second machine, a polyjet printer, was purchased in April 2012, and can make parts out of hundreds of composite materials within an 8 x 16 x 19 in. area.

The FDM machine produces parts accurate to one one-hundreth of an inch of the computerized model, while the polyjet printer is accurate to .002 inch. This capability also allows depot engineers to print parts to use as prototypes and test pieces.

Sheakoski added that the future of additive manufacturing and 3-D printing technology holds nothing but promise.

“When you look at some of the benefits of 3-D printing – the cost savings, reduction in turnaround times, reliability – it’s exciting to think where it can go from here,” he said. “Additive manufacturing is helping the depot cut costs during tough times while continually supporting the warfighter with high-quality products.”

Tobyhanna Army Depot is the Defense Department’s largest center for the repair, overhaul and fabrication of a wide variety of electronics systems and components, from tactical field radios to the ground terminals for the defense satellite communications network. Tobyhanna’s missions support all branches of the armed forces.

About 5,100 personnel are employed at Tobyhanna, which is located in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania. Tobyhanna Army Depot is part of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command. Headquartered at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., the command’s mission is to research, develop, acquire, field and sustain communications, command, control computer, intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors capabilities for the armed forces.

 




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
Luke Lightning strikes at Nellis

F-35 program on right track, director says

Luke Lightning strikes at Nellis Air Force photograph by Senior Airman Thomas Spangler An F-35A Lightning II assigned to the 61st Fighter Squadron, Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., taxis to the runway for a training exercise at Nell...
 
 
Army photograph

Army plans intelligence system to be lighter weight, easier to use

Army photograph During a media day, a soldier, with the Army’s intelligence community, demonstrates use of a portion of the Distributed Common Ground System – Army system on Fort Belvoir, Va., May 16, 2013. Future v...
 
 
Navy photograph

Closing the curtain on NAVAIR’s desert depot

An MV-22 gets ready for takeoff following repair at NAVAIR’s Forward Deployed Combat Repair facility in Afghanistan. The FDCR mission ended in June 2014, and was primarily led by NAVAIR reservists with artisans from Fleet...
 

 
navy-F35

F-35C conducts first detachment visit at NAS Lemoore

Navy photograph Sailors and members of the community had the opportunity to observe an F-35C Lightning II aircraft static display at Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif., April 14. The static display is part of a six-day visit by ...
 
 
Artists rendering courtesy SikorskyBoeing

Army aviation continues efforts for technology development

Artists rendering courtesy Bell Helicopter The tiltrotor V-280 Valor aircraft is Bell Helicopter’s vision of the future as it prepares for flight demonstrations for the Army in 2017. The Army recently extended technology ...
 
 
Courtesy photograph

Air Force announces KC-46A candidate bases

Courtesy photograph The KC-46A Pegasus development program completed its first flight of Engineering, Manufacturing and Development aircraft #1 Dec. 28, 2014. Air Force officials announced April 14 that Tinker Air Force Base, O...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>