A company in Westmoreland County will be developing a mobile 3D printer that can be used in military zones and disaster relief areas.
MEGHAN SCHILLER: We have come a long way with 3D printing and we are now leading it to war. A Westmoreland County company will now work with the Department of Defense. It will be able to develop a mobile 3D printer that can be used in military zones and even in disaster relief areas. And now coming to me live over Zoom to talk about it is ExOne CEO John Hartner. Thank you for speaking to us tonight.
JOHN HARTNER: Hello Meghan. Happy to be here.
MEGHAN SCHILLER: What makes this 3D printer different?
JOHN HARTNER: We are leaders in metal 3D printing and have been in the Pittsburgh area for more than 20 years. In this particular case, we take one of our printers, make it robust, and put it in a container that can be provisioned forward. Whether it is a humanitarian problem, a disaster or a front for the war fighter.
MEGHAN SCHILLER: Can you give some examples of what critical parts might be needed in any of the situations just mentioned?
JOHN HARTNER: Yes. I mean, there are spares for a number of vehicles, systems, and generators that sometimes take weeks to get back to the front lines in the event of a failure. We can print this part locally in a day or two, regardless of whether the part is from a design in the cloud or whether it was scanned locally at the customer.
MEGHAN SCHILLER: Impressive. Where will this printer be used in the future?
JOHN HARTNER: Well, we’ve used these printers in a number of industries. Automotive, aerospace and other technologies. We believe that it is not only the DOD that brings the printer closer to the point of use, but also other large manufacturers who are bringing back supplies from, for example, low-cost countries in Asia, to bring them closer to their homes and closer to their customers. That’s the excitement of 3D printing.
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MEGHAN SCHILLER: I think a lot of people have heard of 3D printing. You understand the term, but you probably have no idea how it works. Can you explain it with laypeople?
JOHN HARTNER: Sure sure. We get this question all the time. Instead of starting with a metal block and then processing it and having all kinds of waste when you get a very small part, let’s start with this file, the digital file. We cut it into the computer and then build it up layer by layer. And in the end, the part itself is all that’s left. The actual powder is reused and we don’t waste powder at all. So it’s totally sustainable and very fast, and gives designers complete freedom of design so they can innovate with new parts. This is used, for example, in electric vehicles and a whole host of other emerging industries.
MEGHAN SCHILLER: Did you ever think you were going to send your printer to war when you got into this field?
JOHN HARTNER: Well, we’re sending it to the front, whether it’s war or humanitarian aid. There are so many uses here, too, and it’s always exciting to see how customers use our printers in new applications. This is what we are very positive and excited about.
MEGHAN SCHILLER: Well, John, cool stuff. Thank you for taking your time with us this evening.
JOHN HARTNER: Happy to be here. Thank you, Megan.