Imagine a future battlefield on which U.S. forces fully leverage additive manufacturing (AM) capabilities to support their materiel needs—producing critical, but otherwise unavailable, parts on demand and in the optimum location in the Department of Defense (DoD) supply chain.
AM is no longer just a tool for prototyping. Advances in computing power and software, input materials, machine speed, and performance have expanded its capability for the production of end-use components. This enhanced capability has caught the attention of DoD leaders who are making targeted investments in AM with the goal of improving readiness and sustainment.
AM has the capability to produce end-use parts that improve design, reduce waste, shorten time to market, and reduce lead time. It’s happening today at GE, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and other companies around the world. However, as rapidly as the technology is advancing, it’s important to remember that AM is not a push-button technology. These firms have conducted rigorous assessments of their supply chains and developed a business case for AM to produce select end-use components when it’s effective and economical. After years of investment, development, and refinement, these firms have created a component-specific end-to-end production process.
For DoD to successfully use AM technology, it must leverage the innovations of the defense industrial base while developing an organic capability. There are many multifaceted challenges to overcome, and DoD cannot afford to take them lightly. In the white paper “Additive Manufacturing in the Department of Defense,” LMI aims to advance the conversation around integrating AM into DoD’s supply chain and logistics operations.
Here are some of the challenges that LMI has identified:
LMI stands ready to support DoD’s AM goals as a knowledgeable and realistic partner. AM holds great potential for meeting DoD’s need for parts, but first, leaders and policymakers must separate the technology’s hype from its realities. Ensuring quality and reducing risk are paramount; understanding the true current state of AM will point the right way forward for integrating AM into DoD’s supply chain and logistics operations.