The Army is increasing its footprint in Additive Manufacturing, also referred to as 3-D printing, by printing spare parts for robotic ground vehicles, hand grenades and even drones. To tackle this rapidly evolving technology, the Army has developed an AM technology roadmap, which was merged into an overarching DOD roadmap recently.
The DOD roadmap is comprised of common requirements and technical objectives identified in individual AM roadmaps from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Defense Logistics Agency. The DOD roadmap also identifies current and future capabilities that are needed to enable AM and areas for collaboration.
Manufacturing USA (National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute), which was established as part of a presidential initiative in 2012 to stimulate and accelerate AM in the United States, provided assistance in creating the roadmaps, using the same process, methodology and taxonomy from the National AM technology roadmap that it developed with its partners from industry and academia. The goal is to leverage the DOD AM technology roadmap as an overarching AM roadmap with common goals and objectives that will set the course for the DOD, industry and academia to effectively use AM.
“The Army relies on the manufacturing prowess of industry to keep our Soldiers the best-equipped in the world because having the best equipment, the right equipment in the right quantity when you need it is an essential component of making our Soldiers the safest and most effective in the world,” said Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command commanding general.
The Army plans to use AM to improve readiness by repairing or producing spare parts or by creating new parts in real-time as close to the point of need as possible. Using AM, parts can be produced in the field repeatedly without the need to retool, cast or mold. AM also eliminates the need to ship spare or new parts, which will save time and money.
In 2014, representatives from the Army, Navy, Air Force, DLA and the office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manufacturing & Industrial Base Policy met with senior leaders at Manufacturing USA to discuss the DOD AM technology roadmap. The final roadmap was compiled from information gathered during workshops that representatives from the four services attended throughout the past year.
RDECOM organized an informal AM working group in 2013 to coordinate and plan AM activities across the Army enterprise. Since then the group has grown into a [chartered] Community of Practice, which was formalized in 2016. The RDECOM AM CoP serves as a central source for collaboration on the command’s AM technology development activities, as well as a central location for mature AM technologies that are ready to support Army products. The CoP, which actively participated in developing the Army’s AM technology roadmap, is currently identifying critical tasks and challenges for executing the roadmap.
The Army’s roadmap was spearheaded by the Army Manufacturing Technology program, which is managed by RDECOM, a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. ManTech engineers and researchers provide engineering support and work closely with Army organizations to identify and fund projects that support the overall Army science and technology strategy.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense, 3D printing • additive manufacturing • stereolithography