Army engineer Lance Hall assigned to NASA Additive Manufacturing. Source:
Army engineer Lance Hall assigned to NASA Additive Manufacturing. Source:

The U.S. Army is working with NASA and the University of Alabama to use 3D printing for improving missile performance.

In May, 2014, leaders from the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC) and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) officially established an Additive Manufacturing Integrated Product Team (IPT) to research and develop additive manufacturing.

Members of the IPT include, from AMRDEC, Dr. Amy Grover, Brian Harris, Keith Roberts, William Alvarez, Pete Black, and Patrick Olinger; and from MSFC, Niki Werkheiser, Ken Cooper, and Erin Betts.

"When you come to learn and appreciate the potential of AM, it's hard not to judge this as a true game-changer; one that will ultimately have far reaching, historical impacts onto our society at-large," said acting AMRDEC Director James Lackey.

AMRDEC is looking currently at trade studies investigating AM, to minimize cost and optimize performance of missile structures, using topology optimization routines to enhance design and analysis of AM-built structures, and characterizing materials and processes for specific missile applications.

"Teaming with NASA, MSFC and other partners, AMRDEC will investigate procurements of AM machines to support our research needs, build a cadre of engineers and scientists savvy on this technology, fabricate and performance test qualify components for ground and flight test," he said.

Dr. Dale Thomas, Marshall Center's associate director, technical, signed the IPT charter for NASA.

"Additive manufacturing is a step toward the future," he said. "It is changing the way organizations design and manufacture products around the world, and space is one of the key places where humanity will see the impact of this technology."

The agreement was facilitated by Phil Farrington, professor of industrial and systems engineering and engineering management at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

"This effort continues a long tradition of collaboration between the AMRDEC and Marshall. This exciting new technology has the potential to radically change the way we manufacture aerospace and defense systems," said Farrington. "One of the team's goals is to identify additive manufacturing research and development needs of greatest importance to the defense and space community."