The US Department of Defence (DOD) has realised that if they can transport their own manufacturing machines out into the field, they can actually make very complex spares in a war zone. US-based Diverse Machine Solutions (DMS) has already sold five large machines to the US Navy, who are running a series of tests into how to harness mobile additive manufacturing afloat more effectively.

Inventor Slade Gardener was on the DMS stand with his compact Big Metal Additive machine, said to be capable of laying down 5lbs of metal every hour to create some very complex shapes. The rough shape is then milled within the same envelope by a different tool.

“The machine has allowed for the industrialisation of additive manufacture,” Gardener explained. “It can not only actually make complex 3D shapes, it can also finish them as well. This brings a new level of complexity to additive manufacturing because you can control the height of each layer, and from there you can establish the tolerance and stability of the entire part.

It allows for the making of parts in a way that would be possible by conventional manufacture.”

The machine on display was able to build parts within a 2ft3 area, but other DMS additive manufacture machines could go as large as 8ft3. “The wire feed technology makes this a very cost-effective machine to run, and the system is fully scalable,” Gardener said.