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Owning the UK Roadmap for Additive Manufacture for Defence


Sajad Haq

Additive Manufacture (AM) for Defence is rapidly becoming a key enabler for future product design.

Technologies including sensors, multifunctional materials and structural parts that QinetiQ is developing for applications in land, maritime and air domains using novel materials, are increasingly relying upon AM. A few examples include next-generation armour materials, materials to mitigate against lightning strike for composites, acoustic materials for signature reduction, electromagnetic structures such as radomes and antennas, and extreme temperature metallic alloys for hypersonic applications.

Additive Manufacturing entails the manufacture of 3D objects, typically using layer-by-layer deposition of a feedstock material featuring anything from polymers through to metals or combinations using computer aided design. AM will be a key tool in speeding up the adoption of technology, reducing the time from concept to being in the user’s hand. This includes a number of specific advantages, such as lower costs, tailored and bespoke products, in-field manufacture, and disruption of supply chains.

Dr Seabright introducing the AM road mapping eventHowever, there are a host of issues to address from understanding the properties of AM parts, the use of novel materials, in-situ test and characterisation, and their qualification and assurance. Solving these challenges has become more difficult by the rapid expansion of the AM area, leading to a disparate knowledge base thereby complicating understanding of relevant issues. Given the specifics of defence requirements, resolving these problems is critical for exploitation into defence applications.

QinetiQ has devised a series of collaborative workshops to develop an integrated ‘UK AM Roadmap for Defence’ to encapsulate the current position, identify gaps and barriers to development, and outline key areas of focus. The first of these, titled ‘Challenging the current certification and qualification methodologies for AM within the defence sector’, took place in May 2023 and introduced the approach to build a set of roadmaps with a partner network that will help define the UK position.

Dr Ryan Seabright, QinetiQ’s Lead of the AM initiative said: that we are delighted at the response from our stakeholders and partner network who have contributed immensely in launching this activity.

With initial roadmaps, a series of whitepapers and follow-up events planned, the schematic below details future workshops and the progression of the outputs over a nine-month period.

AM Roadmap

Here are some examples of additive manufacture produced at QinetiQ:

Additive Manufactured radome structure for electromagnetic applications
Additive Manufactured radome structure for electromagnetic applications
Metamaterial device for wave control produced using additive layer manufacture
Metamaterial device for wave control produced using additive layer manufacture
4D large area printed structure for tunable applications
4D large area printed structure for tunable applications