In a world-first, a WarpSPEE3D metal 3D printer was put through its paces by the Australian Army during a field exercise in the Northern Territory in June, demonstrating the potential for this technology to be deployed to the field by the Australian Defence Force.

WarpSPEE3D is the world’s first large-format metal 3D printer to use patented cold spray technology that enables significantly faster and more cost-effective metal part production than traditional manufacturing. Developed by Australian manufacturer SPEE3D, the printer is capable of printing large metal parts up to 40kg at a record-breaking speed of 100 grams per minute.

The printer arrived in Darwin in early June. Little over a week after being installed at Robertson Barracks, soldiers from the 1st Combat Service Support Battalion (1 CSSB) trucked the printer out to the  bush for a three-day trial at the Mount Bundey field training area, 120km south-east of Darwin. The WarpSPEE3D was manoeuvred to various locations and different terrains. It was unloaded ready to print within 30 minutes, producing a variety of parts.

SPEE3D printers make metal parts the fastest way possible, leveraging metal cold spray technology to produce industrial-quality metal parts in minutes, rather than days or weeks. The process harnesses the power of kinetic energy, rather than high-power lasers and expensive gasses, allowing 3D metal printing in the field at affordable costs.

The Army announced a $1.5m investment in a pilot of SPEE3D technology in February, with a 12-month trial designed to test the feasibility of deploying 3D metal printers on base and in the field. The program aims to increase the availability of unique parts to the Army.

SPEE3D CEO Byron Kennedy said: “The first field deployment of WarpSPEE3D was an important milestone for SPEE3D. While initially designed for industrial use, this trial proved our equipment is actually very robust and can endure harsh conditions and rough handling very well. We look forward to future exercises and continuing to learn how we best serve the Australian Army and defence industry.”

1 CSSB Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Kane Wright, added: “This phase has seen the 3D printing capability deployed to the field, alongside vital military equipment, contributing to the mission during this training cycle. The ability to print repair parts in an environment like this has the potential to significantly reduce our footprint and repair damaged equipment – on the spot – to get us back to our main priority.”