Additive remanufacturing is one of numerous ways Anniston Army Depot works to recycle and reuse parts for combat vehicles.
Through welding and other processes, ANAD is able to carefully remove parts from a tank or other combat vehicle, test it to see how closely it conforms to specifications, then, if an approved remanufacturing or rebuilding process exists, employees can bring the part back into specifications.
Laser sintering, a form of computer-aided welding where metal powder is melted to create a weld, is one of those potential remanufacturing processes.
"Additive remanufacturing, in most people's eyes, is 3D printing," said Tony Pollard, an engineer with the depot's Directorate of Production Engineering. "We use it as an alternate means to repair parts which are worn and no longer meet requirements."
Through laser sintering, tiny layers of metal powder are fed through a nozzle onto the part being rebuilt. The powder is heated and bonded to the part using a laser.
"It's a combination of two skill sets -- welding and programming," said Pollard.
Specimens are then cut from the welded part and submitted to the Materials Laboratory for analysis to ensure that the welded part meets or exceeds the requirements of the overhaul procedure, drawing, national maintenance work requirements and technical data package..
The final step in ensuring a part is now ready for installation comes in the machine shop, where depot employees perform any cuts needed to prepare the part and final measurements are taken, guaranteeing the quality of the part and its conformance to specifications.
Currently, only one part is approved for such a process -- the mechanical housing known as a saddle, which is a component of the final drive for a M1 Abrams tank.
Pollard said that is because ANAD and the Army are implementing additive remanufacturing in a crawl, walk, run method.
"We are beginning with low-impact parts which have a high wash-out rate," said Pollard. "Once the process has been refined into acceptance, we can move to higher impact parts."