MatterHackers awarded $5M NAVAIR contract to deliver Ultimaker 3D printers to US warfighters

Award-winning 3D printer and filament supplier MatterHackers has been awarded a five-year IDIQ contract worth up to $5 million to deliver fully-deployable 3D printing systems to US Navy and Marine bases across the US and overseas.

Awarded by the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), and reportedly the largest military contract ever awarded concerning desktop 3D printers, the deal will see MatterHackers field up to 75 Tier 1 additive manufacturing systems through 2025. The system will include Ultimaker S5 3D printers and industrial-grade filament, in addition to supplemental IT support, maintenance strategy, and on-the-ground training.

“MatterHackers’ commitment to NAVAIR is not to just deliver 3D printers to the field and Warfighters, but to provide continued training and personalized support to ensure that the systems are being used to their full capacity,” said Mara Hitner, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships for MatterHackers.

“Especially with the variety of robust, engineering-grade materials available for the Ultimaker S5, the impact that these systems will have on the capabilities of our Warfighters to do their work around the world will be unprecedented.”

MatterHackers will supply the Ultimaker S5 and materials to US Navy and Marine bases. Photo via Ultimaker.
MatterHackers will supply the Ultimaker S5 and materials to US Navy and Marine bases. Photo via Ultimaker.

A one-stop-shop for NAVAIR

As a leading US-based retailer of desktop 3D printers and materials, MatterHackers is well-positioned to execute the NAVAIR contract due to its extensive vendor relationships and proven ability to coordinate complex logistics. In fact, MatterHackers has previously been awarded a contract to deliver 3D printers and training to I MEF Additive Manufacturing Training Center at Camp Pendleton.

Being one of the largest Ultimaker resellers since 2015, MatterHackers sees the Ultimaker S5 as a suitable 3D printer for NAVAIR’s requirements due to a number of reasons. The printer was chosen for its large-scale build volume, extensive catalog of compatible materials with NFC chips, IT-secure design options, and integration with Ultimaker’s Cura software.

“Ultimaker has become a leading 3D printing platform by earning the trust of some of the most demanding organizations in the world,” said Jürgen von Hollen, CEO of Ultimaker. “Having our Ultimaker S5 3D printing platform selected to be part of the largest US military contract ever awarded for desktop 3D printers is particularly exciting.

“Serving this critical sector and addressing the unique requirements of US Navy and Marine bases across the US and overseas advances 3D printing applications across all sectors of industry in years to come.”

Featured image shows the Ultimaker S5 system being programmed using the company's Essentials software package. Image via Ultimaker.
The Ultimaker S5 system being programmed using the company’s Essentials software package. Image via Ultimaker.

Providing hands-on training

In addition to supplying NAVAIR with Ultimaker S5 3D printers and industrial-grade materials through the contract, MatterHackers will also deliver on-the-ground training via its partner, Building Momentum.

Building Momentum is an immersive training and interactive learning firm that uses 3D printers as a standard tool within its training programs. The company will provide hands-on training for every Marine and Navy base receiving a Tier 1 additive manufacturing system from MatterHackers, and will also deliver follow-on training throughout the five-year contract, covering topics such as 3D printing with advanced materials and problem-solving. 

“We are grateful for the opportunity to train NAVAIR’s team on these 3D printers, as we have seen firsthand what a huge impact they can have on affecting real change within the military, as well as corporations,” said Thomas Sullivan, COO at Building Momentum. “Our Innovation Bootcamp training program has seen widespread success over the years, and 3D printing is a critical part of that program.

“We look forward to creating a relationship with NAVAIR and continuing our commitment to MatterHackers to the benefit of all parties.”

One of the early prototypes of the 3D printed antenna mount. Photo via NAVAIR.
One of the early prototypes of the 3D printed antenna mount. Photo via NAVAIR.

NAVAIR’s continued AM adoption

The five-year contract will see multiple Ultimaker S5 desktop polymer systems deployed to NAVSEA’s fleet readiness centers, marine aviation logistics squadrons, and their associated expeditionary units. The agreement represents the first stage in NAVAIR’s three-tiered approach to “put additive manufacturing in the hands of the fleet”, with the other two tiers focusing on industrial polymer and metal 3D printing systems. 

“The IDIQ brings the much-needed capability of printing parts at the point-of-need to our warfighters,” said Robert Kimble, NAVAIR’s Naval Sustainment Group Director.

NAVAIR has been leveraging 3D printing technology for some time, having celebrated the first successful flight of an aircraft with a 3D printed flight-critical component back in 2016. A year later, NAVAIR put in a critical request for a life-saving 3D printed part to be used inside its Goshawk training planes from its sister organization, the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA).

By 2018, the organization estimated it relied on some 1,000 3D printed parts that had been approved for use across its fleet. Since then, NAVAIR has developed 3D printed antenna mounts for the US Navy’s MH-60S Seahawk helicopter, and has also invested funding in additive manufacturing data specialist Senvol to further develop its machine learning software for the optimization of 3D printed parts and processes.

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Featured image shows MatterHackers will supply the Ultimaker S5 and materials to US Navy and Marine bases. Photo via Ultimaker.