Oct 14, 2016 | By Alec

The Obama administration has been a huge supporter of industrial 3D printing over the last few years, partly through America Makes, and through the adoption of the technology into several government agencies and branches. The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), part of the US Department of Energy, is clearly one of their frontrunners. Excitingly, they have just announced that they have 3D printed their 25,000th item, saving over $45 million in production costs in the process.

This fantastic milestone was reached at the Kansas City National Security Campus (KCNSC) of the NNSA, which manufactures non-nuclear parts for the Nuclear Security Enterprise. It’s a campus that has heavily invested in 3D printing over the last few years, and a place where new components are constantly designed, prototyped and manufactured. Digital manufacturing has long since been a core component of their work, allowing them to accelerate innovation and now, combined with the 3D printing of metals, ceramics and semiconductors, new solutions for critical national security issues are constantly being developed by the NNSA.

In particular, they have been very interested in working with materials that are not (commonly) found in nature, with very specific properties fine-tuned for specific applications. 3D printing, they say, has played a key role in making those materials part of production processes. At the same time, they have been heavily relying on metal 3D printers to pioneer parts for nuclear and defense applications. As a result, the US nuclear weapons stockpile is actively being maintained with 3D printed parts from the NNSA labs, while their researchers have also pioneered warfighter armor and more.

Additionally, this new milestone highlights cost-saving opportunities, especially through reducing waste and material costs, and significantly shortening development times. In fact, over $45 million was saved during the development of these 25,000 3D printed components. “The potential impact that digital manufacturing can have on the fabrication of items is reminiscent of what integrated circuits did for electronic processes,” said KCNSC’s chief technology officer, David McMindes. “The opportunities offer the ability not only fabricate things faster and cheaper, but to completely change the way we approach design.”

So, what was the milestone part? A metal fixing component used during weapon testing, which secures weapon components in place and ensures that they do not sustain damage during testing. Thanks to 3D printing, its development process – from start to finish – was reduced to just 25 days, greatly speeding up testing opportunities.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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