No-melt metal 3D printing technology from Virginia’s MELD Manufacturing has been selected for Phase 1 of the U.S. Army’s Expeditionary Technology Search, XTechSearch.
The proposal, submitted by MELD, is to use its technology for the maintenance and repair of military vehicles, fulfilling the XTechSearch Next Generation Combat Vehicle (NGCV) technology focus area.
“The MELD™ technology is ideal for combat vehicles,” explains MELD Additive Manufacturing Manager Dr. Chase Cox, “[…] it enables the use of unweldable metals and can create, join, coat, or repair a wide range of novel metallic materials that offer superior strength and corrosion resistance without adding weight.”
All the things laser can’t do
MELD Manufacturing was formally introduced to the market in April 2018. A subsidiary of measurement solutions provider Aeroprobe, the company has patented a new type of additive manufacturing technology, integrated into a machine called the B8.
In contrast to other metal additive techniques such as selective laser melting (SLM), the MELD technique is a solid-state process that “makes the material malleable without melting.”
Based on the fiction stir welding process invented in 1991 at The Welding Institute (TWI) in the UK, MELD’s process is ideally suited for high-laydown, near-net shape metal deposition.
Put simply by the company’s CEO Nanci Hardwick in an interview for 3D Printing Industry, “MELD can do all the things laser can’t do.”
Ideal for the battlefield
2018 also marks the Army’s first xTechSearch program. It has been set up to help the military stay in touch with upcoming technologies and “enhance engagements with the entrepreneurial funded community, small businesses, and other non-traditional defense partners.”
In Phase 1, applicants were requested to submit a white paper of their concept, relating to one or a selection of the Technology Focus Areas outlined by the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology.
MELD’s application was made to the area for NGCV’s, as a technology for the development of replacement tank and infantry fighting vehicle, with weight, sustainment, and cost-per-unit savings.
Dr. Cox explains, “MELD™ machines do not require a laboratory environment for operation and are highly scalable, making them perfect for implementation on the battlefield. Being able to repair parts or manufacture components on demand in theater would both elevate efficiency and save time and money.”
As one of 125 winners of Phase 1, MELD receives $1,000 in prize money and is invited to participate in Phase II: xTechSearch Technology Pitches. In this stage, the company will be invited to in-person Technology pitch to a panel from the Army and Department of Defense.
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Featured image shows a concept drawing of MELD additive manufacturing repair at a forward operating base. Image via MELD Manufacturing