2018 U.S. Military budget includes support for 3D printing

The proposed U.S. military budget for 2018 includes support for an increased use of 3D printing and additive manufacturing.

Every year Washington must authorize appropriations for the coming fiscal term. The funds pay for military activities of the Department of Defense, military construction, personnel and for other purposes.

The total budget to be approved for 2018 is $639.1 billion. Among the planned expenditure on aircraft carriers and the need to appoint a chief technology officer, details related to additive manufacturing are given.

Revolutionizing the industrial supply chain

The bill proposed by the Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities calls for the Secretary of Defense to provide a briefing to the House Committee on Armed Services not later than December 1. 2017.

Under the heading Additive manufactured parts, the bill highlights the, “significant possibilities that additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, will provide to the Department of Defense, both in revolutionizing the industrial supply chain, as well as in providing radically new technological capabilities.”

The subcommittee cites the establishment of Defense Manufacturing Innovation Institutes and increasing presence of 3D printers at “tactical levels” as support for the potential of additive manufacturing.

Additive manufacturing could also greatly improve the organic industrial base’s ability to respond to demands that original equipment manufacturers are unable to meet or to fabricate obsolete parts that are no-longer manufactured.

The USS Gerald R. Ford. Image via the U.S Navy.
The USS Gerald R. Ford. Image via the U.S Navy.

Obstacles to increased use of 3D printing

However, several obstacles to the full potential of 3D printing are given. These include the quality assurance and validation of additive manufactured parts, “especially for those in flight or safety-critical systems.”

To address this issue, standards and processes for assuring quality must be developed. The subcommittee also highlights that, “substantial room remains across the force to add more capacity for this capability, both to repair out-of-date equipment and to speed repair in order to meet urgent operational requirements.”

The military budget allocates $13.2 billion for technology innovation. Projects such as High Energy Laser Tactical Vehicle Demonstrator, DARPA’s Hypersonic Flight Demonstrations and the Perdix – low cost drone swarm – program are included under this section.

The proposed National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 is available here.

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