Military Yet to Fully Leverage Additive Manufacturing


(National DEFENSE)

3D printer printing prototypes, photo by kynny/Getty Images

Photo by kynny/Getty Images

by Samantha McBirney and Phillip Burton

March 2, 2022

Additive manufacturing may very well become a critical component of the Defense Department supply chain, but challenges ranging from decentralized approaches among the various services, a lack of standards, limited awareness and know-how among military workforce and leadership, and intellectual property issues could prevent the Pentagon from realizing its potential.

Additive manufacturing, commonly known as “3D printing,” is an emerging technology with game-changing potential that is already being realized across the U.S. military and the commercial world. It allows manufacturing methods beyond conventional techniques to make select parts on-demand—within the organic industrial base or at the tactical point of need—a capability that could mitigate supply chain disruptions and fundamentally change the way the military identifies, designs, produces, delivers, and sustains materiel readiness.…

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Samantha McBirney is an engineer at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation and a professor of policy analysis at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. Phillip Burton is the director of advanced manufacturing at U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command.

This commentary originally appeared on National DEFENSE on March 16, 2022. Commentary gives RAND researchers a platform to convey insights based on their professional expertise and often on their peer-reviewed research and analysis.