cross dimensional manufacturing

Stringent security requirements

Additively manufactured components for the German armed forces

Founded as “Rheinische Metallwaaren- und Maschinenbaufabrik Aktiengesellschaft” in 1889, Rheinmetall AG is today an international integrated technology group. The company is a partner and supplier to the automotive industry as well as a global leader in the provision of security technology systems. Rheinmetall AG commissioned toolcraft as a manufacturing partner after being awarded a contract from the German armed forces.

Used technologies:


Rheinmetall AG

The Starting Point:
The search for an expert manufacturing partner

The TSWA (turret-independent secondary weapon system) is an unmanned weapon station mounted on the rear section of the German army’s Puma infantry fighting vehicle. Rheinmetall needed a partner to produce components for a turret-independent secondary weapon system (TSWA) by means of additive manufacturing. Since the finished assembly had to meet very specific criteria, Rheinmetall AG favoured the use of innovative additive manufacturing technology over other possible production methods.

The Challenge:
Security technology with a complex manufacturing process

The components include the structural support used to hold all the other parts and the gate used to load and unload the launcher and prevent the ammunition from being removed without permission. The structural support also protects the electronics in a waterproof compartment.
Numerous requirements had to be taken into account when manufacturing the individual components. Firstly, their overall weight had to be kept as low as possible. They also needed to be fitted with a wide range of in-built features and the manufacturing process had to allow them to be shaped as required to keep them compact. Fast iteration loops had to be used to ensure that the structural support could be developed quickly. Furthermore, the long-term availability of replacement parts had to be guaranteed. The manufactured components were welded into a segmented assembly using a joining process automated by toolcraft. During this process, toolcraft made sure that the requirements of the DIN 2303 manufacturer certification for the production of defence-related products by means of laser additive manufacturing and laser metal deposition (LMD) were met at all times.

The Approach:
Additive process chain in action

  • Preparation of the manufacturing data for the laser-based additive powder process
  • Additive manufacturing of the semi-finished products for the structural support and gate
  • Production of a specially designed copper nozzle using powder bed fusion to weld
  • areas on the edges of the assembly that are difficult to access
  • Heat treatment of the individual components and the assembly in a vacuum furnace so that the specified 
  • material characteristics can be achieved
  • Joining of the individual components in the LMD machine
  • by means of laser welding with the addition of powder
  • Finish-machining to give the components the required tolerances
  • Various destructive and non-destructive tests along the entire value chain
  • Quality assurance throughout the entire manufacturing process and on the finished assembly

The Results:
Stringent requirements met

The thin-walled, tight structures kept the weight of the welded components to a minimum. The use of additive manufacturing also allowed all the other industry-specific requirements to be met. Rheinmetall is therefore planning to commission toolcraft with series production of the assembly in the future.

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Dominik Fleischmann

Project Manager Additive Manufacturing (L-PBF)