Pentagon-funded researchers refine 3-D printing

Defense Department

Defense shows interest in new manufacturing techniques that cut costs.

Pentagon-funded researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a more cost-efficient way to make molds for precision parts and aerospace components using 3-D printing tools and computer software, the university announced.

In 3-D printing, solid objects are created by layers from a digital file. This generates less waste than traditional manufacturing processes, which may need hundreds of tooling pieces to sculpt objects from slabs of raw materials.

Georgia Tech’s method involves projecting ultraviolet light onto a mixture of photosensitive resin and ceramic particles, and curing the mixture to mold the object, layer by layer. The mold is further refined until a ceramic structure is formed for molten metal to be poured into, thus casting an aerospace component.

The project received $4.65 million in funding from the military venture wing Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Popular among do-it-yourself hobbyists, architects and designers, 3-D printing has received increasing attention from the Pentagon, which wants to tap it to cut the costs of making defense prototypes. Defense is hoping to launch a $60 million 3-D printing research and educational program, NextGov previously has reported.