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Custom-Shaped Explosives for US Navy 3D Printed on HP 3D Printers

Picture of Hanna Watkin
by Hanna Watkin
Apr 18, 2018

We could soon see custom-shaped 3D printed explosives on the battlefield. A Tennessee-based consultancy, called E&G Associates, is aiding the US Navy in the creation of such devices. 

E&G Associates is a Tennessee-based consultancy which advises companies on how to work with and handle bulk solids. They have the tagline “we fix powders” and work with everything from coffee beans to explosives.

They’re now helping the US Navy create custom shaped explosives using commercial 3D printers. To do this, they recently received a $150,000 federal grant from the Small Business Innovation Research program.

Specifically, this money is going towards helping the Navy turn plastic explosives into a nylon powder that can then be 3D printed. E&G Associates will use HP’s Jet Fusion 3D printer to create the custom-shaped explosives.

The HP printers are ink-and-thermoplastic powder bed fusion printers. “The printer spreads the nylon powder and then prints on that flat layer of powder with the ink. Then the printer passes a heat lamp back and forth to make the dark areas melt. And that’s how you get your parts. The process is repeated in three steps. Spread a layer, ink the specific selected areas and fuse with heat lamps. You do that over and over again until you build a part,” explains engineer Nasseem Jibrin.

His fellow associates are Benjamin Ennis, Brandon Ennis, and Michael Winn. The group is all graduates of the UTC College of Computer Science and Engineering. Dr. Bryan Ennis is E&G Associates founder and former UTC associate professor of civil and chemical engineering.

E&G Associates

Exploding 3D Printed Charges in a “Giant Metal Tube”

The HP Jet Fusion is touted as cost-effective and aimed at product development teams, design firms and universities. Although HP printers were not initially designed to create bombs, E&G are finding that the machines can be adapted for such applications.

“It’s a lot of development effort to try to come up with a machine or printer. They want to be able to take the technologies that are already available,” Benjamin Ennis said. “Instead of inserting a spool of nylon into the printer like with traditional 3D printing, they want to insert spool of explosive material.”

Currently, the engineers are testing nylon powder and infusing it with printer ink, explosive material, and polymer additives. This way, they’re able to print the charges. However, to test them they have to go off-site.

The engineers rely on a blast chamber at the Missouri University of Science and Technology’s engineering department. Here, they can safely detonate the explosive to test it.

“We’ll test in a chamber that’s basically a giant metal tube. It’s about eight feet high with inch-thick walls,” explains Benjamin Ennis. High-speed cameras pick up on everything so the engineers can study the sample.

Being able to 3D print weapons on the battlefield would be extremely beneficial to the Navy. This isn’t the first time in which it has delved into 3D printing explosives. Read more on All3DP.

Source: UTC Blog

License: The text of "Custom-Shaped Explosives for US Navy 3D Printed on HP 3D Printers" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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