US Department of Defense Could Amplify 3D Printing Use Amid Global Tensions

By on January 19th, 2024 in Corporate, news

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The US DoD intends on major spending in 3D printing [Source: DoD]

The US Department of Defense is set to dramatically expand its use of 3D printing.

As everyone knows, there is a disturbance in the peace across the world, with a number of active military engagements underway, as well as an increasing number of potential conflicts. The US military has been reviewing its capacity and how it matches against future possibilities.

The result of their analysis has been published in the form of a rather long report entitled, “National Defense Industrial Strategy 2023”. I’ve perused through the 60 page PDF and found a few interesting items for our industry.

One goal of the strategy is to produce more resilient supply chains. Everyone recalls how the wheels fell off most supply chains during the pandemic, and similar things could occur during difficult times. It turns out that minimizing cost of supply chains, the long time goal of many companies, wasn’t a good idea.

One of the sub strategies for this is to “diversify supplier base and invest in new production methods”, specifically, “Promote investment in advanced manufacturing automation.”

We all know what that means: more digital manufacturing, and that includes 3D printing.

Another strategy is to secure sources of materials — and specific technologies, which could include 3D printing”

“The DoD maintains stockpiles of strategic minerals, critical chemicals, medical supplies, critical parts, and essential technology.”

There is a direction to increase work on emerging technologies, and there are plenty of up and coming 3D print processes that would qualify:

“The DIU speeds up the development and production of emerging technologies and products, such as autonomous systems, quantum technology, artificial intelligence, and advanced materials that can serve the needs of both the military and the civilian economy.”

Here’s the key section dealing with advanced manufacturing:

“Advanced manufacturing automation streamlines and compresses development and production processes, reduces human intervention, lowers unexpected downtime, and improves overall manufacturing performance. Today’s advanced manufacturing automation is the result of decades of symbiotic interactions between the public and private sectors and separate independent private sector-driven advances. Some elements of the DIB, however, have yet to adopt advanced manufacturing technologies, due to either post-Cold War industry atrophy, offshoring, or redirection of available investment capital. Through new initiatives like Advanced Manufacturing (AM) Forward as well as continued work in advanced manufacturing applications in production and sustainment of key components, the DoD seeks to produce more advanced technologies in the U.S. through investments in regional manufacturing ecosystems. DoD will expand efforts to incentivize, invest in, and otherwise promote the use of advanced automation technologies by defense suppliers to reduce total life cycle costs and increase readiness, and, as appropriate, to fill workforce gaps.”

Another aspect of the report focuses on the skilled workforce required to make all this happen. They write:

“Prepare workforce for future technological innovation by investing in upskilling and reskilling programs and investing in advanced manufacturing workforce pipelines.”

They intend on working with companies to help them re-skill their workforces to have the correct capabilities for anticipated future operations.

“To reach more people, DoD will explore expanding investment in Manufacturing Innovation Institutes, including supporting public-private partnerships with colleges and universities, high schools, and large and small enterprises.”

They intend to promote increased development and use of standards, which is something the 3D print industry needs in a number of areas.

Throughout the report they continually mention the idea of expanding their umbrella outwards into manufacturing partners that have not normally been part of the defense industry.

Boiling this down, we see that they most likely will:

  • Spend on learning advanced manufacturing
  • Spend on acquiring advanced manufacturing
  • Spend on maintaining materials for advanced manufacturing
  • Spend on developing new advanced manufacturing technologies

Could there be any better news for the 3D printing industry, which has been in the doldrums for the past year or so? This strategy could unlock vast amounts of funding for many aspects of 3D printing for at least several years.

The effects of this strategy will certainly benefit the military, but there will be enormous side effects in the commercial and public worlds. People trained still have those skills. Technologies developed can be sold to non-military users.

This could be the best news in quite a while.

Via Business Defense (PDF)

By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!

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