The US Department of Defense has released a detailed strategy for their use of additive manufacturing technology in coming years.
3D printing technology has been around for many years now, and has matured to the state where many industries are now adopting it rapidly where usage warrants. The defense industry is certainly a large potential user of additive manufacturing tech, and has been doing so for some years. However, in the US that effort has often been in isolated pockets.
Now that could change with the release of the new Department of Defense Additive Manufacturing Strategy by the Pentagon.
The Strategy is freely downloadable by anyone, and it’s straightforward to read, so I encourage you to do so. However, I do want to point out several notable points within it.
The Strategy lists several key goals:
- Integrate AM into DoD and defense industrial base
- Align AM activities across DoD and with external partners
- Advance and Promote Agile Use of AM
- Expand proficiency in AM: learn, practice and share knowledge
- Secure the AM workflow
In other words: “use AM as much as possible and make sure everyone is able to do so.”
The Strategy requires the development of policies to integrate the use of AM into weapon systems, material readiness and warfighter capabilities. They intend on “bringing together” all stakeholders inside and outside the military in the supply chain and academia to make this happen.
The policy requires the development or adoption of qualification and certification processes for AM-produced parts, and there is specific mention of using “new developments” in AM machines, material and technologies.
Perhaps the biggest item is this:
“The Services will educate and train the technical and business workforce necessary to integrate and use AM.”
“Develop a world-class workforce of practitioners, designers, technicians, and acquisition professionals.”
This will surely create (literally) armies of AM-skilled professionals, many of whom will eventually enter the commercial market once they depart from the military. This will no doubt tremendously increase the awareness and use of 3D printing tech and consequently generate higher demand for AM equipment and materials.
The DoD also intends on developing solutions to integrate the processes, which will include management of digital assets. It’s likely this could include ways to transmit digital designs to mobile AM factories, such as the one we described last week.
These policies will ultimately provide a massive boost to the AM industry, as the US DoD is literally going to solve many of the issues facing industry when moving to AM. The DoD solutions will eventually find their way into the private sector, as their suppliers may choose to offer the same or similar solutions to the public.
The military is attempting to make AM easier to use, and the barriers they break down will fall for everyone. The changes implied by this strategy will be immediately apparent in the military, but perhaps generate even bigger changes in the rest of manufacturing and even society itself.
Via US DoD