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Last month, NNSA’s Kansas City National Security Campus (KCNSC) — which manufactures non-nuclear parts for the Nuclear Security Enterprise — celebrated the roll out of its 25,000th 3D-printed part. Through digital manufacturing, as compared to traditional development processes, KCNSC has saved or avoided more than $45 million in costs by capitalizing on new processes, and significantly improved the way components are designed, prototyped, and manufactured.
Digital manufacturing uses 3D printing to build products and components from digital models. A 3D printer creates components by depositing thin layers of material according to a digital blueprint, like an office printer layers ink on a piece of paper.
The digital manufacturing process incorporates supercomputer calculations and simulations to provide better ergonomic and technical solutions to support NNSA’s missions. The technique allows engineers to design in ways that aren’t possible with standard manufacturing methods, making components that perform better and weigh less while accelerating fabrication.
“The potential impact that digital manufacturing can have on the fabrication of items is reminiscent of what integrated circuits did for electronic processes,” said KCNSC’s chief technology officer, David McMindes. “The opportunities offer the ability not only fabricate things faster and cheaper, but to completely change the way we approach design.”
KCNSC’s milestone 25,000th item was designed to ensure a weapon development part doesn’t sustain damage while securely positioned during testing. It was designed, printed, and ready for testing within 25 days.