The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) has installed a WarpSPEE3D metal printer at HMAS Coonawarra in Darwin.

A large-format SPEE3D metal 3D printer was installed by the Fleet Support Unit (FSU) at HMAS Coonawarra Navy Port in late November, making the RAN the latest branch of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) with the capability to print its own metal parts, on demand.

Sustainment, or the repair, maintenance and overhaul of equipment makes up a substantial proportion of the costs for all defence forces globally. The difficulty and expense of getting spare parts through regular supply chains has been exacerbated and highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The world has been looking to additive manufacturing (AM) to solve this problem; however, most AM technology has proven too delicate, too expensive, and far too slow to solve the problem. SPEE3D has proven to be the exception.

SPEE3D’s metal 3D printing technology was developed in Australia and is the world’s fastest and most economical metal 3D printing technology. It is also the only large format metal 3D printing technology that has been trailed and proven field-deployable by the ADF.

SPEE3D recently completed a series of successful field trials deploying the WarpSPEE3D printer to the remote outback with the Australian Army. The Federal Government funded the $1.5m trial, which included the training of Army craftsmen and engineers in 3D printing at Charles Darwin University in everything from design to certification of parts. The program resulted in a range of parts that the Army is now able to print and finish in the field, at a fraction of the cost and time of current supply chains. The pilot program with the RAN is expected to produce similar results.

The installation of a WarpSPEE3D at HMAS Coonawarra was made possible after the Federal Government made a $1.5m investment in a similar 18-month pilot of the capability for the RAN. This world-first trial is designed to streamline the maintenance of patrol vessels and significantly increase parts available to the Navy compared to those available from regular supply chains. This technology empowers the Navy to design and manufacture the parts they require, when and where they are needed, whether that be on base or at sea.

SPEE3D CEO Byron Kennedy said: “We are excited to be working with the Royal Australian Navy on this programme. Having the capability to produce high-quality metal parts on-demand, in the field or at sea will be ground-breaking for the Australian Defence Force.”

SPEE3D was recently awarded the AIDN-NT Innovation Award 2020 for an outstanding contribution in providing this capability to the Department of Defence, and the NT Exporter of The Year 2020 and Australian Trusted Trader Technology and Innovation Award 2020 in the NT Export and Industry Awards.