America Makes inks seven-year $322M agreement with U.S. Air Force to advance additive manufacturing

America Makes, the Ohio-based national accelerator for additive manufacturing, has announced a seven year Cooperative Agreement (CA) with the U.S. Department of Air Force‘s Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), in a deal worth $322 million. 

Comprising a Cost-Reimbursement/Cost Share agreement, the $322 million funding value is made up from a combination of government cost and America Makes cost share. The funding will support America Makes in expanding its mission to advance the adoption of additive manufacturing. This will specifically focus on the areas of materials, design, education and community in additive manufacturing. 

“For America Makes, this new CA with AFRL marks a monumental milestone,” commented America Makes Executive Director John Wilczynski. “We have worked tirelessly together with the America Makes membership community during the last seven years and two previous Cooperative Agreements with AFRL to execute our mission of advancing the adoption of additive manufacturing.” 

“We have moved well beyond our initial pilot start-up phase and a project phase driven by consortium developed roadmaps to become the recognized voice of our industry.”

Accelerating additive manufacturing since 2012

America Makes was established by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) in 2012. Is it the first of eight Manufacturing Innovation Institutes established by the DoD as public-private partnerships. Managed by the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (NCDMM), America Makes aims to create a hub of additive manufacturing innovation for public and private defense industries.

America Makes contains 220 member organizations from government, industry and academia, and is also a part of the Manufacturing USA network, which seeks to secure U.S. global leadership in advanced manufacturing. Over the last seven years since its inception, the national accelerator has taken great strides to push forward and promote the rapid adoption of additive manufacturing in a multitude of sectors. 

A factory of EOS machines. Photo via EOS.
A factory of machines developed by EOS, a platinum member of America Makes. Photo via EOS.

Notable initiatives in its catalog of programs include the creation of an additive manufacturing standardization roadmap with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), which tracks the gaps in standards for the technology.

America Makes has also helped the U.S. Army to launch a program seeking the integration of additive manufacturing into its supply chains. It has established a national 3D printing education programand it has unlocked a wealth of research opportunities specific to the sector. The institute has also opened a number of Satellite Centers for 3D printing research and applications, aiming to extend its mission footprint. These have been built at Wichita State University, University of Texas, and the Texas A&M University System

The next seven years of America Makes

Currently, America Makes manages a $215 million portfolio of public and private funds invested in advancing the state-of-the-art in AM in the United States, accumulated since 2012. Over the next seven years, the additional funding secured within the CA will increase the value to over half a billion dollars. 

Following the terms of the CA, America Makes will continue to leverage its collaborative public-private model and will strengthen its mission effectiveness and business resilience. Utilizing the funding, the institute ultimately aims to establish a more robust and capable manufacturing base for delivering additive manufacturing solutions to private and defense industries. 

Students are taight about 3D printing in small groups as part of ACADEMI. Photo via America Makes.
Students are taught about 3D printing in small groups as part of ACADEMI. Photo via America Makes.

Additionally, the agreement will also support the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD)’s Manufacturing Technology (ManTech) program, which sponsors America Makes and focuses on cross-cutting defense manufacturing needs. The institute will directly support the manufacturing technology needs for the OSD Research & Engineering modernization priorities, including hypersonics, cyber, and AI/machine learning.

“Working with our membership community, we’ve spent an inordinate amount of time dedicated to roadmapping the technology and workforce needs of the industry,” adds Mr. Wilczynski. “As a result, we are acutely aware of what steps in what focus areas we need to take in order to best address and resolve these needs.”

Using its developed roadmaps as a guide, America Makes has identified specific areas that it will be focusing on in the immediate future. Primarily, the institute will focus on the lack of materials design data that is hindering the wider adoption of AM technologies. Generating greater knowledge and understanding of critical additive manufacturing materials and optimization is therefore considered a significant step forward industry-wide adoption. 

In the education and workforce area, America Makes aims to overcome the skills gap that exists in the additive manufacturing industry. America Makes will increase the availability of DfAM courseware at the academic level, including trade schools and universities, and the business level with apprenticeships and training. The institute also plans to further cultivate its community, so that its membership represents a significant cross-section of the U.S. additive manufacturing ecosystem. Finally, America Makes also seeks to expand its Satellite Center model.

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Featured image shows an 88th Logistics Readiness Squadron technician marshals a Florida Air National Guard F-15 Eagle to its parking place at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. Photo via U.S. Air Force/R.J. Oriez.