The recent, detailed overview of the Army’s use of largely 3D printed engines in its upcoming Apache and other future VTOL military vehicles seemed to indicate that the Department of Defense in the US is now taking AM even more seriously than it has up to this point. In fact, the DoD just released the official DoD AM policy, detailing all aspects of the use of AM in the US’s military capabilities.
According to the official document, which was just cleared for public release, the DoD will seek to “use AM to support joint force commanders and CCMD theater requirements, transform maintenance operations and supply chains, increase logistics resiliency, and improve self-sustainment and readiness for the Military Services”.
AM will be applied, as appropriate, to enhance the DoD’s industrial base, including small businesses, in order to advance weapon systems capabilities and sustainment. According to the new DoD AM policy, the DoD will also support research and development–focused public-private partnerships and collaboration on AM across the DoD, other U.S. Government agencies, coalition partners, industry, and academia. This also implies ensuring that AM plans, programs, and requirements are adequately resourced and that DoD workforce members are adequately educated, trained, and certified, when applicable, in AM
While the DoD has been at forefront of AM innovation, this document indicated that the use of AM is going to be much more capillary and standardized across all US military programs. The DoD intends to ensure that cyber-physical infrastructure and processes are secure and capable of supporting the use of AM across the life cycle of weapons systems, with the goal of developing and adopting new AM technologies where beneficial to weapon system operational capability or sustainment.
More specifically, the document (available here in full) contains many interesting details on the specific roles of each DoD agency and figure. For example, the Director of DLA (Defense Logistics Agency), will be in charge of developing, maintaining, and hosting the joint AM model exchange (JAMMEX or Joint Additive Manufacturing Model Exchange), a portal to share approved AM data sets and other secure, interoperable data management capabilities based on the common DoD AM data framework that enables DoD entities to securely access and share, buy, or acquire license rights in AM data. The DLA follows existing cybersecurity processes to secure and appropriately test AM data and management systems described in this subsection.
This also implies aligning AM activities across the DoD to speed up the cost-effective use of AM, collaborating and sharing best practices across the AM community. Also indicated as a priority is the protection of DoD investments in AM technology development from proliferation to near-peer and strategic competitors, carrying out DoD Instruction (DoDI) 2040.02 and U.S. export control laws and regulations.