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MatterHackers Teams Up With Military for 3D Printers

Explores New Uses; Vehicle Parts and More

MatterHackers in Lake Forest is teaming up with the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps to explore the ever-growing possibilities for 3D printing.

The company and the military have reached a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) for printing-related innovation and testing efforts.

“The goal is to help the Navy and Marine Corps to use the inexpensive desktop 3D printers they have in more innovative ways, and to come up with meaningful use cases they had never considered before,” Mara Hitner, company vice president for strategic partnerships, told the Business Journal on Sept. 21.

MatterHackers calls itself the largest 3D printing retailer in the U.S., with a selection of 70-plus desktop 3D printers and 2,000-plus materials on offer.

The CRADA follows news from last November, when the company said that it had won its largest contract to date with the U.S. military, a deal worth up to $5 million.

Digital Fabrication Focus

Hitner said researchers would look at possibilities for the printers, which cost between $300 and $10,000 each and can produce items at low cost.

“MatterHackers has been working closely with our neighbors at Camp Pendleton in Southern California for years, and we are so excited to be able to dig deeper into their 3D printing needs with this CRADA,” Hitner said.

She added: “We also look forward to sharing some of these use cases—as appropriate—to inspire other OC businesses and organizations to adopt and expand their own 3D printing capabilities.”

MatterHackers says its mission is to make 3D printing and digital fabrication easier and more accessible for everyone.

Marines, 3D

Materials involved in the 3D printing include stainless steel filament, nylon mixed with glass or carbon fibers, and other engineering-grade thermoplastics, all of which can be printed into functional, customized components with the target hardware.

The printing is a manufacturing process through which 3D solid objects are created and is also known as “additive manufacturing.”

The new pact with the military “will identify and address military-specific challenges experienced in tactical settings, and evaluate how open-source 3D printing materials, additive manufacturing equipment, and commercial-grade technical training can help resolve them quickly and effectively,” says Kristin Holzworth, the NIWC Pacific Principal Investigator.

“The Navy and the Marines have basically come to us as the experts to work with them to help identify “candidate parts,” including replacement parts for vehicle and machine maintenance and sustainment, Hitner says.

50 Employees

MatterHackers CEO Lars Brubaker said it is “just a collaborative process.”

“There is no exchange of money in the contract,” the CEO said. The goal is “in identifying new use cases for 3D printing that will save the government time and money, and then promoting those breakthroughs for use in other branches.”

The company currently has about 50 employees.

Brubaker said that after the difficulties posed by the pandemic, the company is “moving back to profitability” and will be “significantly profitable” next year.

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Kevin Costelloe
Kevin Costelloe
Tech reporter at Orange County Business Journal
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