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.


 
 

 

USO Visit

Air Force photograph by Jet Fabara Actor Vince Vaughn speaks with Edwards Airmen and 412th Security Forces Squadron members at the base library before introducing an advance screening of his new movie, “Unfinished Business,” at the base theater Feb. 28.
 
 
navy-raaf

RAAF aircrew complete basic training in Growler

Five Royal Australian Air Force aircrew personnel graduated from basic training at Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 129, the U.S. Navy’s EA-18G Growler Fleet Replacement Squadron, during a ceremony Feb. 27 at Naval Air St...
 
 
Air Force photograph by Scott M. Ash

AF leaders seek relief from sequestration-level funding

Air Force photograph by Scott M. Ash Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III testify before the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriationsí Defense Subcommitte...
 

 
navy-china

USS Fort Worth conducts CUES with Chinese Navy

The littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) practiced the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) with the People’s Liberation Army-Navy Jiangkai II frigate Hengshui (FFG 572) Feb. 23 enhancing the professional ma...
 
 

AEGIS tracks, simulates engagement of three short-range ballistic missiles

The Missile Defense Agency and sailors aboard the guided-missile destroyers USS Carney (DDG 64), USS Gonzalez (DDG 66), and USS Barry (DDG 52) successfully completed a flight test involving the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense weapon system. At approximately 2:30 a.m., EST, Feb. 26, three short-range ballistic missile targets were launched near simultaneously from NASA’s Wallops...
 
 

DOD seeks novel ideas to shape its technological future

The Defense Department is seeking novel ideas to shape its future, and officials are looking to industry, small business, academia, start-ups, the public – anyone, really – to boost its ability to prevail against adversaries whose access to technology grows daily. The program, called the Long-Range Research and Development Plan, or LRRDP, began with an...
 




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>