Charles R. Goulding and Preeti Sulibhavi look at areas of investment by the U.S. infrastructure bill that may be major opportunities for 3D print technology.
After many years of discussion, the U.S. has just enacted a major trillion-dollar infrastructure bill. During the many years of discussion, the 3D printing industry has experienced major growth and is now positioned to greatly benefit from this massive finding. This article provides the details of the infrastructure program categories along with the some of the related 3D printing opportunities. Parts of the Bill include various infrastructure components.
Roads and Bridges – $126 billion
For roads, bridges, highways and other large, complex (yet undefined) projects, the allocated pool is about $126 billion. There are many opportunities for 3D printing to play a vital role in these improvements. Our Fabbaloo pieces covering Deere and Caterpillar and their recent developments in 3D printing demonstrate how relevant 3D printing can be right now. In addition, we have previously written about SIKA and the concrete 3D printing revolution underway at this time. Concrete is one of the main components of most highways and bridges.
A November 10, 2021, article in the Wall Street Journal covered how additive manufacturing or 3D printing is helping to produce stronger, more durable transit links and bridge components while being lightweight and more flexible in shape. The article went on to describe how designers generally go from computer software designs to a 3D printing system that sometimes can use robotic arms to continuously weld wire that is changing path on the bridge structure.
Transit and Rail – $105 billion
As far as transit and rail (whether it is passenger or freight rail) are concerned there are many applications that 3D printing can have in this sector. The Bill has allocated approximately $105 billion towards projects in this area. We have covered Union Pacific Rail Developments, Wabtec rail technology, The North American Rail System, European Rail Systems, and Wabtec, GE and rail developments. Each of these pieces illustrated how 3D printing can fundamentally improve outcomes in the rail industry, and there are significant opportunities in this area.
Transportation Safety – $11 billion
Along with infrastructure improvements come safety challenges. The bipartisan Infrastructure Bill includes $11 billion for transportation safety developments. The Bill advances key National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) priorities. In addition to updating current programs, the Department of Transportation (DoT) will allow for vehicles to have adaptive headlamp systems. One company that specializes in headlights for vehicles is Panor Corporation.
Maxxima, a division of Panor Corp, is a leading manufacturer and supplier of various LED lighting products for commercial vehicles, including Stop, Tail & Turn Lights and Head Lights. Maxxima has receive patents for innovative designs and functions, which has allowed the company to provide high quality lighting units for customers. During development, engineers create digital designs of potential 3D printed headlight prototypes to determine if the design is functional and ready for to scale production.
Broadband Upgrade – $65 billion
The legislation calls for $65 billion in improving broadband access for rural areas, low-income families, and tribal communities. Most of this would be granted through State disbursements. This could significantly increase access to internet services for underserved populations. This component will require developments in antenna technology as well as satellite technologies.
Airports, Ports and Waterways (Including Water Infrastructure) – $97 billion
The passage of the Bill will bring $42 billion to airport, port and waterway improvements. Airports and ports are key to our trade and travel. We must keep these infrastructure points up to date to improve our supply chain distribution processes and ensure safe and effective global and local trade. We have previously written about how 3D printing impacts the marine industry, particularly Singapore being Asia’s 3D printing capital.
Power & Water System Resiliency (Including Cyber Security) – $50 billion
The Bill approves $50 billion in funds to strengthen and make our infrastructure more resilient to elements of climate change and cyber threats. The passage of this legislation includes funds to protect our infrastructure against droughts and flooding. It is the largest investment to date in building the resilience of both physical and natural systems in American history.
Electric Grid – $65 billion
A combined total of $65 billion has been allocated to rebuilding the electric grid in our nation. The purpose of this is to modernize the electric grid so that it is able to carry more renewable energy . This is the single, largest federal investment in US power transmission history. The current state of the US electric grid fails to provide cybersecurity, extreme weather events (i.e. heat waves or Nor’easters), or the ability to integrate utility-scale clean energy resources such as solar, wind, and electric vehicles. The goal being a grid that deploys clean electricity generation and high-voltage transmission that provides economical, reliable, and clean electricity nationwide.
Electric Vehicles – $7.5 billion
In order to promote the use of energy efficient vehicles, such as electric vehicles (EVs), it is important to have the infrastructure that can handle them. To increase the use of EVs it is critical to build a national network of charging stations so that anyone could recharge just as if they were going to a gas station. The approved Bill allocates $7.5 billion to this goal.
Environmental Remediation – $21 billion
Legacy pollution continues to harm our public health and communities. This Bill invests $21 billion in addressing environmental remediation. It includes funds to clean up superfund and brownfield sites, reclaim abandoned mine land and cap orphaned gas wells.
Companies specializing in tools and fasteners should pay attention right now as construction projects require large volumes of tools and fasteners. It is an industry that is critical to infrastructure development.
The Research & Development Tax Credit
The now permanent Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credit is available for companies developing new or improved products, processes and/or software.
3D printing can help boost a company’s R&D Tax Credits. Wages for technical employees creating, testing, and revising 3D printed prototypes can be included as a percentage of eligible time spent for the R&D Tax Credit. Similarly, when used as a method of improving a process, time spent integrating 3D printing hardware and software counts as an eligible activity. Lastly, when used for modeling and preproduction, the costs of filaments consumed during the development process may also be recovered.
Whether it is used for creating and testing prototypes or for final production, 3D printing is a great indicator that R&D Credit eligible activities are taking place. Companies implementing this technology at any point should consider taking advantage of R&D Tax Credits.
The bipartisan infrastructure bill that will be signed into legislation by President Biden by the time this is published is a historic event. Not since the days of Franklin Delano Roosevelt at the end of the second World War has this much investment been given to our national infrastructure. There are a myriad of roles 3D printing can play in the rebuilding of our nation’s bridges, electric grid, and other aforementioned components of our infrastructure. The time is now to apply them.