The systems were ordered by the Integrated Structure for Maintaining Land Equipment in operational condition (SIMMT), a division of the French Army focusing on the operational maintenance of land equipment for all Army units. SIMMT will equip the P1000 3D printers to help validate the advantages of 3D printing for manufacturing spare parts in real conditions. Both systems plan to be delivered to the French Army by summer 2019.
The French Army has ordered two ProMaker P1000 3D printers from Prodways. Image via Prodways.
3D printing for on-site manufacturing of spare parts
Both P1000 3D printers will be utilized by the French Army to different ends, with Prodways supplying the materials, as well as training the operators on how to use the two systems.
The first ProMaker P1000 3D printer will be packed into a container and transported on missions for deployment in external operations. The 3D printer will specifically be used to produce spare parts on demand in full autonomy, enabling the French Army to determine the benefits as well as the drawbacks of using additive manufacturing on site.
On the other hand, the second P1000 3D printer will be fixed in France at the Tulle detachment of the 13th Material Support Base (BSMAT) for the ‘Matériel’ arm of the French Army, which specializes in maintenance and repair of equipment or hardware. The Material Support Base will work towards ensuring operational support of the deployed additive manufacturing chain.
French minesweeper during external operation of the French Ministry of the Armed Forces. Image via Ministry of the Armed Forces
Increasing military implementation of additive manufacturing
Additive manufacturing is now being employed in a growing number of applications in defence sectors around the world. The U.S. Army has demonstrated a strong advocacy for using the technology, where it has been implemented for inventory reductions as well as ensuring the availability of certain spare parts, amongst other specific case studies.
With the French Armed Forces now following suit, additive manufacturing could present various opportunities for manufacturing parts within the French Army, Navy and Air Force similar to those within the U.S. Army.
For example, the U.S. Army has recently engaged in a project launched by additive manufacturing accelerator America Makes to integrate 3D printing into its supply chains. 3D printing is significantly providing a number of inroads to on-demand and on-site production of parts within the military and civil aerospace sectors as well, with the U.S. Air Force utilizing the technology to print low-cost replacement parts for legacy aircraft.