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U.S. Department of Defense Additive Manufacturing Strategy

U.S. Department of Defense Additive Manufacturing Strategy

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Defense issued its Additive Manufacturing Strategy.

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) recently issued its initial Additive Manufacturing (AM) Strategy, which describes the DoD's goals to:

  1. Integrate AM into DoD and the Defense Industrial Base;
  2. Align AM activities across DoD and with external partners;
  3. Advance and promote agile use of AM;
  4. Expand proficiency in AM: learn, practice, and share knowledge; and
  5. Secure the AM workflow.

The Joint Interagency Field Experimentation (JIFX) Program, sponsored by the Rapid Reaction Technology Office in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (USD(R&E)), provides one venue for teams from Private Sector, Academia, Non-Governmental Organizations, government agencies, and NPS faculty and students to collaborate on 3D printing, and additive and subtractive manufacturing methods.  The Naval Postgraduate School's Robo Dojo provides an additional venue for faculty and students to explore how AM can be harnessed for military applications.

From the USD(R&E) news release,

The Office of the Secretary of Defense Manufacturing Technology (OSD ManTech) Program Office in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (OUSD(R&E)) released its first-ever comprehensive Additive Manufacturing (AM) Strategy in January 2021. The AM Strategy establishes a common vision for the use of this game-changing technology, which is also known as three-dimensional (3D) printing. OSD ManTech, which is under the Strategic Technology Protection and Exploitation (STP&E) Office in OUSD(R&E), crafted the Strategy in partnership with the Military Services and other defense agencies.

“Additive manufacturing offers DOD unprecedented supply chain agility while enabling our developers to sustain technological dominance for our Warfighters,” said Robert Gold, Director of the Technology and Manufacturing Industrial Base (TMIB) Office in STP&E, OUSD(R&E) who is also responsible for oversight of OSD ManTech. “This Strategy ensures that DOD will realize the most benefits from AM technology by structuring our AM activities, aligning funding opportunities, and improving AM implementation efforts – all with the objective of enhancing our Warfighters’ mission readiness.”

“The Air Force eagerly partnered with OSD and our other Services to develop a much needed DOD AM Strategy that addresses our collective needs. This Strategy is vital as it provides a roadmap to fully adopt and integrate AM in our acquisition and sustainment communities,” says Angela Tymofichuk, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Logistics and Product Support, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics. “We envision AM as an effective tool that can mitigate diminished manufacturing sources of supply and long lead time supply chain shortfalls, while empowering Airmen to create innovative solutions for the myriad of sustainment challenges they encounter.”

The Strategy outlines how AM supports our Nation’s continued economic and defense dominance in three key ways:

  1. Modernizing national defense systems to improve performance using AM-designed equipment;
  2. Increasing materiel readiness to rapidly prototype and produce direct parts, thereby reducing the risk of obsolete hardware; and
  3. Enabling Warfighters to employ innovative solutions on the battlefield through AM capabilities.

Additive manufacturing allows users to produce new products quickly and cost-effectively, oftentimes on-demand or at the point of need. It also bolsters the lifespan of legacy systems. Some examples of what the technology can produce include aircraft ducting, replacement lens caps, concrete bridges, advanced electronics, and medical equipment. In 2020, manufacturers have successfully used AM to address medical equipment shortages created by the coronavirus pandemic.

Additive manufacturing is still an emerging technology. While there has been growth in AM’s use across the defense industrial base, its full potential is still being realized. The Strategy outlines five strategic goals to achieve broad adoption of AM in the defense sphere:

  1. Integrate AM into DoD and the Defense Industrial Base;
  2. Align AM activities across DoD and with external partners;
  3. Advance and promote agile use of AM;
  4. Expand proficiency in AM: learn, practice, and share knowledge; and
  5. Secure the AM workflow.
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