Australian researchers launch explosive $2 million 3D printer materials partnership

The Australian government has awarded 5 research institutions $2 million USD ($2.6 million AUD) to develop additive manufacturing technology for “energetic materials”.

Reactive in content, energetic materials cover a body of polymers that can be used as explosives, or solid rocket fuel.

3D printing the materials gives military and defense operations the potential to reduce cost and improve the efficiency of weaponry.

The Firestorm grenade launcher, a product from 3D printed energetic materials project partner DefendTex. Photo via DefendTex
The Firestorm grenade launcher, a product from 3D printed energetic materials project partner DefendTex. Photo via DefendTex

According to Christopher Pyne, Australia’s Minister for Defence Industry, “This research could lead to the production of advanced weapons systems, which can be tailored for unique performance and purpose,”

“It should also allow broader access and more efficient and environmentally friendly manufacturing opportunities to Australian industry providing significant cost savings and competitive advantage for Defence, and industries such as mining construction.”

The ‘key to main stream 3D printing’

The Australian Government’s R&D organization the Defence Science and Technology Group (DST Group), will be working with weapons research company DefendTexRMIT University, Flinders University and Cranfield University in the UK on the multi million dollar project.

According Professor David Lewis, a polymer specialist and Director of Flinders Centre for NanoScale Science and Technology, “The ability to develop systems like this is the next generation of additive manufacturing and is the key to this technology becoming main stream.”

Eco benefits and adaptability

Funding for the project will be contributed to the multidisciplinary team across the next two years. In addition to saving manufacturing costs, and encouraging more versatility in weapons design, 3D printed energetic materials have eco-friendly benefits, currently under research funded by the European Commission.

3D printed demo of a tubular SOFC produced on a Ceramaker machine. Image via
3D printed demo of a tubular solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC), part of the European Commission’s Cell3Ditor project. Image via

Travis Reddy, chief executive of DefendTex explains the benefits of the proposed technology as follows, “In addition to offering the prospect of significant performance gains, additive manufacturing of energetic materials has the potential to solve cost, safety and efficiency problems associated with traditional manufacturing methods which have remained unchanged for a generation,”

“Partnering with defence scientists from the DST Group and Cranfield University is critical in informing the research requirements associated with the project aims and in ensuring that the technology has the greatest chance of meeting defence needs.”

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Featured image shows Australian Air Force security tactics training. Photo via RAAF Australian Air Force