DefenseMaritime Industry

ASTRO America to build new AM technology center on Guam

Supported by $550,000 from BlueForge Alliance to strengthen the US Navy’s Industrial Base on the island

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The Applied Science & Technology Research Organization of America (ASTRO America) is being awarded $550,000 by the Navy’s Submarine Industrial Base team lead, BlueForge Alliance, to strengthen the US Navy’s Industrial Base by developing an additive manufacturing workforce and technology center in Guam.

This initiative constitutes the next stage of a venture launched two and half years ago by Guam’s Governor Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero, after meeting with ASTRO America’s leaders to discuss the potential economic impact of additive manufacturing. Subsequently, the Governor directed a feasibility study and technology summit to determine how developing an AM capability on-island would address both Guam’s economic development and key military needs. Commissioned by the Guam Economic Development Authority, the resulting report has provided important analysis upon which to base a plan for an education and technology center.

Despite its strategic importance to US national security, Guam’s distance from the US mainland poses significant logistical challenges – particularly for delivering, inventorying, and replacing spare parts for key naval platforms, including attack and strategic submarines. Parts that should otherwise take days to requisition can often take weeks – if not months – due to supply chain bottlenecks originating in the continental United States.

While additive manufacturing could address these issues on-island, establishing on-demand production requires a concerted effort to set up well-equipped facilities and develop a workforce in Guam with specialized skills in metallurgy, machining, and additive manufacturing as well as sophisticated non-destructive testing to ensure part-acceptance to industrial base standards. ASTRO America is forging partnerships with the Navy and several organizations, including the Guam Economic Development Authority and the University of Guam, to help US mainland-based higher education establish a credentialed satellite AM campus and testing laboratory in Guam.

“Guam has long served as a crucial base of operations for the US Navy,” said Governor Leon Guerrero. “Now, together, we can bring a technology revolution to Guam that will both create new job opportunities and contribute to America’s national security interests. I saw the potential that additive manufacturing provides for Guam and commissioned a study to determine the feasibility of supporting the Department of Defense and commercial sector needs. Indeed, additive manufacturing shows great promise for achieving our administration’s economic diversification goals, and I look forward to partnering with the Navy and this team to build a submarine industrial base here in Guam.”

“America’s submarine fleet is the envy of the world – renowned for its unparalleled durability and stealth, as well as its vast mission-set: from surveillance/reconnaissance to strategic deterrence,” said Neal Orringer, President of ASTRO America, and former Department of Defense Director of Manufacturing. “ASTRO is proud to join forces with Guam’s leaders to help the Navy maintain this crucial advantage, while helping create new high-tech industries and jobs for the people of Guam.”

Through this project, ASTRO will convene key Navy ship acquisition and sustainment officials along with leading additive manufacturing experts from academia and industry to initiate a framework and, ultimately, establish a location and development plan for a new education and technology center that enables workforce development, productive manufacturing, and testing on-island. To ensure its viability, the plan will also require a substantiated business model – demonstrating an ability to sustain operations and meet manufacturing needs for ship maintenance/repair, and other potential fields.

The project is expected to be informed by Phase I of the feasibility study completed for the Guam Economic Development Authority last year as well as the second report being completed with the Guam Bureau of Statistics and Plans. The forthcoming report is focused on developing an implementation plan to establish an ecosystem tailored to distinct AM requirements and unique economic and geo-political conditions on Guam. Both agencies will play roles in the new project that advances both economic and security needs through AM development on-island.

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Edward Wakefield

Edward is a freelance writer and additive manufacturing enthusiast looking to make AM more accessible and understandable.

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