Additive manufacturing of energetic materials is an enabling technology in that it affords unique geometries and unprecedented control over dynamic behavior. This for example could be a complex energetic materials structure, or a component of an energetic system. Several examples of 3D printed energetic articles and components are shown in Figure 1. This technology will allow for energetic systems with a wide range of tailorable or novel properties such as initiability, detonation velocity, or mechanical characteristics.


3D printing involves the layer-by-layer deposition of one, or more, materials. The spatial placement of the material, if carefully controlled, can influence a desired static or dynamic property. The use of 3D printing to build complex and unique energetic components is at the center of LLNL’s architected energetic materials and structures effort. LLNL has developed several different methods for using 3D printing to create articles of energetic materials applicable to high explosives, propellants, and pyrotechnics. Methods being explored include direct printing of energetic materials as well as creating unique scaffold structures for integration with energetics. Scaffolds can be fabricated with metal, polymer, plastic, ceramic, and reactive composites, and some applications are charge liners, fragmentation packs, plane-wave generators, and reactive casings.


Major benefits of 3D printing of energetics range from reducing the cost and footprint of manufacturing, to rapid prototyping of energetic components. Additionally, performance and safety properties can be controlled in new ways through the spatial control offered by additive manufacturing. This, for example, could include an assembly of two or more energetic materials spatially arranged in such a way that the collective effect yields a new or optimized behavior. Another benefit of 3D printing is that, if the performance can be optimized, it allows for the use of less mass of material. This attribute is beneficial from both a cost and safety standpoint. The versatility of 3D printing of energetic components allows much more flexibility in the design of explosive, propellant, and pyrotechnic systems.

Potential Applications
  • Plane wave generators
  • Shaped charge liners
  • Reactive fragmentation and cases
  • Customizable pyrotechnics
  • Air bag inflation components
  • 3D Joining/welding
  • Thermal batteries
  • Initiation systems
  • Anti-tamper devices
Development Status

LLNL has filed for patent protection for this invention that adds to an extensive patent portfolio.

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