Raytheon Missile Systems Co., based is Tucson Arizona, has been awarded the $523 million contract by the Department of Defense. Raytheon have previously incorporated 3D printing into their missile designs, which is what the contract is for. The DoD wants 47 SM-3 Block IB missiles fabricated, tested and delivered for fiscal 2016. This is the first of three one year options with a quantity of up to 52 per option year. The work will be performed in Tucson, Arizona; and Huntsville, Alabama, with an expected completion date of Sept. 30, 2021.
Researchers at Raytheon Missile Systems say they have already created nearly every component of a guided weapon using additive manufacturing. The components include rocket engines, fins, parts for the guidance and control systems, and more.
“You could potentially have these in the field,” said Jeremy Danforth, a Raytheon engineer who has printed working rocket motors. “Machines making machines. The user could [print on demand]. That’s the vision.”
The 3D printing process may reduce costs, which means the $523 million will potentially stretch a bit further if they incorporate the technology into their missiles.
Engineers at the Raytheon University of Massachusetts Lowell Research Institute are developing ways to print complex electronic circuits and microwave components – building blocks of sophisticated radars used in products like Raytheon’s Patriot air and missile defense system. The current method of building microscopic circuits involves removing material to create a circuit pathway. In contrast, 3-D printing lays down just the material needed to build the electronic pathway.
“The word ‘printing’ implies lower cost,” said Chris McCarroll, Raytheon director for the institute. “It’s additive manufacturing. When we make integrated circuits [now], it’s all subtractive. We put down very expensive materials and wash away everything we don’t need.”
The Department of Defense is no stranger to the benefits of 3D printing. With the US Marines learning how to design and print any product when it is needed, as well as the US Navy printing obsolete and expensive parts, they are already discovering the limitless potential of additive manufacturing.