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Additive Manufacturing in the DoD

Author: Richard Shea, Nicole Santos, Robert Appleton

Category: White Papers

Additive Manufacturing (A/M), or 3D Printing, is the game changing family of technologies that enables the user to produce items of all types on demand from CAD files or data derived from 3D scanning. Materials as diverse as high performance polymers, carbon fiber and metal “super alloys”, as well as stainless steel, ceramics, sand and PLA plastics, are commonly used for A/M. Additive manufactured objects are currently in use by industry for a vast array of applications from flight critical commercial aviation parts to medical implant devices and more.

Long viewed as a passing fad, techies’ plaything, or “not ready for primetime”, A/M has matured into a technology that is revolutionizing industries and endeavors from aerospace and medicine to education and art. The potential benefits to military logistics include dramatic cost savings, weight reduction, and responsiveness to the warfighters’ needs.

In order to demonstrate and measure the benefits of A/M, in the Department of Defense (DoD), a rigorous Business Case Analysis (BCA) must be conducted. Since there are a number of possible use cases for A/M, each one must be examined individually to assess its viability for the DoD. Each use case must also be examined to determine the best A/M technology to choose for that application. This paper briefly defines the various A/M technologies and the use cases believed to be most appropriate for DoD logistics. It also identifies potential benefits and foreseeable challenges to implementation.

Finally, it outlines the methodology the Troika Solutions team proposes to follow in order to conduct such a study. Costs and benefits are often measured differently in the military than in industry. Readiness and availability at best cost are always key factors. Understanding of the government funding system is necessary to gain an accurate measure of benefit. Also, the unique attributes of A/M must be fully understood in order to accurately evaluate its costs, risks, and benefits.