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Father-Son Manufacturing Team Wins AM Gold

Ilene Wolff
By Ilene Wolff Contributing Editor, SME Media

A team including two generations of one manufacturing family, and their blockchain-enabled mobile 3D printing lab, won a Gold Medal in a recent military advanced manufacturing competition. That’s when blockchain startup Simba Chain joined forces with Indiana Technology and Manufacturing Companies (ITAMCO), the University of Notre Dame (ND) and C5BDI, a business development consultancy, to beat 15 other finalists in the Supply Chain Marathon portion of the U.S. Air Force Rapid Sustainment Office’s first-ever competition. Simba Chain’s CEO is Joel Neidig and ITAMCO’s president is his dad, Gary Neidig. The win netted the team a $100,000 cash prize that will be invested in Simba Chain, Joel Neidig said.

In the recent Olympics, the Neidigs’ team and their competitors were all given the same scenario: a fictional island called Elfmore was under siege. How could additive manufacturing be deployed to keep aircraft, weaponry, field hospitals and infrastructure operational?

The winning entry combined portable, self-contained Rapid Additive Manufacturing Labs housed in shipping containers and capable of printing metal, plastic, and composite parts on demand, using blockchain technology. Blockchain is a decentralized register made up of endless, connected cryptographic blocks. Where multiple entities are involved on blockchain, as on a multi-tier manufacturing supply chain, it creates a record of every transaction. If someone adds to the data, the ledger shows when and where that addition happened.

The labs are designed to deliver AM capabilities to forward-deployed military units, front-line medical staff and relief organizations.

ITAMCO and Simba Chain are working with the Air Force to produce the labs. The Army and Navy are also interested in acquiring them. “Simba Chain successfully demonstrated its Rapid Additive Manufacturing Labs could be a critical force multiplier for the Air Force Supply Chain under the most challenging of conditions,” according to an Air Force press release.

“Including blockchain in our strategy set SIMBA Chain apart as our additive manufacturing labs were digitally and securely interconnected with one another and with military command,” Neidig said in the press release. “This ensured the integrity of communications and that whatever was needed could be built to military specifications without compromise from external forces.”

Simba Chain provides blockchain as a service to academia, industry and governments. It also has an option for users to create their own blockchain apps with low-code strategies.

Another four gold-winning technical challenges, and their goals, include:

TDP Relay: Recreate a 3D printed part from existing plans while demonstrating accuracy, skill and completeness. MakerGear won for printing parts using its M3 printer.

Box of Parts Floor Exercise: Identify automated or hands-free scanning for reverse engineering. Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research won for accuracy on each part, using Faro equipment.

Material Hurdles: Identify and demonstrate new aluminum materials for advanced manufacturing. Elementum 3D Inc. won for selecting high-strength 7050 RAM2 aluminum for its EOS M290 printer to replace 7075 aluminum alloy, which is susceptible to stress corrosion cracking.

Approval Sprints: Deliver a polymer AM replacement for rapid deployment of an F-16 aircraft component. Stress Engineering Services Inc., Origin, and nTopology Inc. won for performing daily design iterations and delivering an optimized data line protector clamp design with a Henkel Loctite material rated for flame, smoke and toxicity.

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