DefenseOn-demand Manufacturing

Enhancing army readiness with additive manufacturing

US Army adopts AM technology to overcome logistical challenges and improve operational preparedness

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The US Army highlighted the importance of readiness in its 2022 year-end review, emphasizing the need for continuous training and operational preparedness. Challenges to overall readiness include logistical limitations and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on global supply chains. In response, the Department of Defense and the US Army have reevaluated their strategies – pre-positioning equipment worldwide and employing technology for rapid field repairs.

Aligning with the executive order on America’s Supply Chains and the Department of Defense’s strategy on AM, the Army Materiel Command (AMC) has adopted additive manufacturing to expedite equipment repair and replacement. The Additive Manufacturing Digital Thread (AM DT) program, a collaborative effort between AMC and private sector partners such as Maximus, enables soldiers and technicians to print parts on demand using 3D printers.

AMC and its partners have established the foundation of the AM DT program by identifying critical functions, optimizing processes for identifying potential equipment candidates, and developing processes for authorizing user classifications, certifying, and standardizing 3D parts and materials. Cybersecurity measures have also been implemented to protect the entire system.

Additional program components include migrating the legacy 3D library to a secure system for cataloging, scoring, and certifying data related to parts, as well as implementing risk attributes and back-end security for authorized user access. The Army Learning Management System has incorporated end-user, web-based training, and materials, with ongoing monitoring for improvement.

“Readiness takes many forms. For the army, readiness means empowering soldiers to innovate and create an advantage that improves their performance. AM DT, powered by data and enabled by 3D printing, accomplishes this by demonstrating that the army is a nimble organization and ready for mission success,” said Melanie McCarthy, Army Program Manager at Maximus.

By August 2022, the AMC had formally approved the deployment of 3D printing and its integration with the Defense Logistics Agency’s Joint Additive Manufacturing Model Exchange (JAMMEX), a central hub for sharing additive manufacturing datasets. Other military services can access JAMMEX to benefit from this capability.

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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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