Amid Global Tensions, the US Department of Defense may Increase Use of 3D Printing


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 primary objective of the strategy is to develop supply chains that are more robust and resilient. Many will remember how the supply chains of many companies were severely disrupted during the pandemic, a situation that could potentially repeat itself during other challenging periods. As it turns out, the long-standing goal of many businesses to minimize supply chain costs may not have been the best approach.

A specific sub-strategy towards achieving this goal is to “diversify the supplier base and invest in innovative production methods”. More specifically, there is a move to “Encourage investments in advanced manufacturing automation”.

It is easy for us to understand what this implies: an increase in digital manufacturing, which in turn means a growth in the use of 3D printing.

Yet another strategy being explored is to secure sources of key raw materials, as well as certain crucial technologies – a category that very likely includes 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:

  • Invest in advanced manufacturing education
  • Invest in the acquisition of advanced manufacturing capabilities
  • Invest in the maintenance of materials for advanced manufacturing
  • Invest in the development of new advanced manufacturing technologies

Is there any better news for the 3D printing industry that has been experiencing a slump over the past year? This approach could potentially unlock significant funding for numerous aspects of 3D printing for the foreseeable future.

The implications of this strategy are sure to be beneficial for the military, yet the commercial and public sectors will also experience substantial secondary benefits. Individuals who received training retain those skills. Technologies that have been developed can be commercialized for non-military use.

This might be the most positive news in a long time.

Via Business Defense (PDF)

Original source


“Why did the 3D printer go to therapy? Because it had too many layers of unresolved issues!”

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