Feb 8, 2016 | By Benedict
Electromashina JSC, a manufacturer of armored vehicles for the Russian army, has revealed that it is using an industrial 3D printer to produce an Armata tank, the standard next-generation armored vehicle platform of the Russian military.
The T-14 Armata tank
When Russia’s impressive T-14 Armata tank first hit the streets of Moscow last year, very little was known about it. The armored vehicle drove around Red Square during the May 2015 Victory Day Parade, a celebration of the 70th anniversary of Russia’s victory in WWII. Drivers showed off the Armata’s impressive turn radius, its radar-baffling paint, and its thick armor plates. Now, information has been released about how certain Armata tanks, perhaps including the T-14, are being manufactured. Electromashina JSC, an armored vehicle manufacturer and part of the UralVagonZavod corporation, has revealed the important role played by 3D printing technology in the production of its new line of Armata tanks.
Anton Ulrich, Manager of the Rapid Prototyping Lab at Electromashina, explained how 3D printing has been used since 2015 to produce prototype parts. These parts can be created in small numbers, tested, and then redesigned as appropriate until ready for series production. Electromashina has also been using its 3D printers to produce master models, used in the casting of metal and plastic parts. In the near future, the company will start using 3D printers to produce 3D printed titanium parts, several meters in length, for use in its armored vehicles.
“3D printing has been implemented to speed up trial production,” Ulrich explained. “When a designer develops new products, he uses CAD software to produce a 3D model. So, using a 3D printer, we can quickly turn those 3D models into prototype parts. Now there is no need to order a sample component, and then, realizing that it doesn’t fit, have to order a re-run and waste metal. Furthermore, it is possible to produce not just small elements of a part, but the whole assembly, evaluating its mechanical characteristics before production.”
Although 3D printing machine-ready components for use in armored vehicles and other military equipment is a distinct possibility for Electromashina, these items would have to meet certain requirements of the defense industry. “3D printed components can go straight to consumers in certain industries,” said Ulrich. “But in the defense industry, standards are much higher.”
Ulrich, however, sees no reason why 3D printed components cannot eventually meet those strict defense industry requirements. He cites the cases of 3D printed components being used in the aerospace industry and even produced in space on the International Space Station. If 3D printed parts can be approved for use in space, they could certainly be deemed fit for use in Russian tanks.
The Russian army plans to acquire 2,300 T-14 Armata tanks between now and 2020.
Posted in 3D Printing Application
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