3D metal printer wins prototyping contract for BAE Systems Hunter Frigates


AML3D has announced a purchase contract with BAE Systems to investigate the feasibility and prototyping of metal 3D printed components as part of the design and construction of nine Hunter class frigates in Adelaide.

AML3D said the prototype components aim to provide higher strength properties than typical materials while also providing an alternative to traditionally cast items for future warship builds.

The company was the first in the world to have received Additive Manufacturing Facility accreditation for its processes from DNV, the leading international Marine & Industrial Classification Society, gaining accreditation in August, which allows its 3D metal printed parts to be used in ships’ steel hull structures.

In 2021, the company also was verified as making the world’s largest 3D printed shipboard fitting, printing a 1.45 tonne deck-mounted Panama Chock for Keppel Technology & Innovation.

The latest purchase contract for the Hunter frigates components follows a commercial validation testing program, which started in October 2020.

The company said that testing demonstrated its Wire Additive Manufacturing (WAM) technology as a cost-effective manufacturing option, which has the potential to reduce lead times while meeting BAE Systems standards for additive manufactured components.

“The validation test results illustrated how WAM technology can support the continuous naval shipbuilding and sustainment sovereign capability as laid out in the Australian Government’s Naval Shipbuilding Plan,” it said.

WAM differs from other wire-feed-stock metal printing techniques, such as wire-fed laser, electron beam and laser sintering as it can print metal parts in an open free-form fabrication environment using localised inter-gas. Combined with localised gas shielding, this process removes the need for enclosed printing chambers, therefore the component build size is not limited, allowing it to print large metal pieces for ships.

“Developing our commercial relationships across the marine and defence sectors are key to AML3D’s strategic growth plan,” AML3D Chief Executive Ryan Miller said.

“We had great confidence that WAM would satisfy BAE Systems Australia’s testing protocols and are pleased to have successfully moved this project out of the validation testing phase.

“Providing prototype components that will support BAE Systems Australia’s contract with the Royal Australian Navy to build the Hunter class frigates is another step in building a commercial relationship of great significance, especially in the context of the scale of BAE Systems Australia’s wider shipbuilding initiatives in Australia.”

Watch the video below to see latest construction progress of the Hunter Class Frigates – Australia’s biggest manufacturing project – as separate units are connected to build a full ship block.

BAE Systems Hunter frigate construction – latest video – Celebrating Australian Made

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