Every year the US Army brings their academic and commercial partners to their research and development garrison Redstone Arsenal for the Aviation and Missile Research, Development, and Engineering Center (AMRDEC) Futures Brief. The AMRDEC Futures Brief helps civilian organizations that work with the military get a better understanding of the types of research and projects the US Army is focusing on, and what they need from civilian partners. This year’s brief drew representatives from more than a dozen academic organisations and 350 businesses and industrial partners. While those may not be record-setting numbers for a comic convention, they’re big numbers for the AMRDEC Futures Brief as this year’s crowd was three times the size of any previous year.
As anyone who works in the defense industry will tell you, working with the military is big business because they have a lot of money to spend. The total defense budget for the United States is projected to be almost $600 billion in 2016, with a sizable portion of that being devoted to using advanced technology to produce better weapons and support equipment. Many of the US military garrisons hold similar meetings to the AMRDEC Futures Brief all over the country. The primary point of these briefings is simple: the military wants to maintain their existing relationships with the civilian organizations that develop the materials and technology that they use. But there is another purpose; the military also wants to encourage existing and potentially new partners to explore cutting edge and advanced technology and discover how it can be adapted for the military’s use.
Albert Killen, a Senior VP from aerospace engineering company Intuitive Research, was one of the hundreds of business leaders who came from 26 states to find out what the US Army is looking for in terms of technology and research. According to Killen, if any singular point could be taken away from this year’s AMRDEC Futures Brief it is the fact that the US Army really wants to invest in 3D printing technology.
Here is some video from a local news station about the event:
“Hearing what their needs are what their challenges are, that better informs us as to both what skill sets they need, what products they need, what technologies, what insight,” Killen explained to local news station WHNT19.
While no specific business opportunities are ever discussed at the the AMRDEC Futures Brief, it isn’t hard to understand what the US Army is interested in. They laid out a clear desire for 3D printing to play a greater role in weapons development, maintenance programs and support materials production by focusing on previous and current projects involving the technology.
“From an economics perspective we average about 2.5 to 2.6 billion dollars of budget activity for various customer resource sources to do this work. So we have a huge economic impact when you think about the local economy and what our role is here,” said AMRDEC Director James Lackey. “3D printing is a key area for us to look at. It goes across the board, across the spectrum of what we’re interested in and what we want to do.” Specific to the attendees, he continued, “For 3D printing, I look at them to help us supply us, what are the new technology machining ideas of the 3D machines themselves.”
Some of the uses for 3D printing technology that they have focused on recently are medical applications, rapid construction applications, high-tech wearable technology and routine vehicle and equipment maintenance. The military has been shifting its focus to 3D printing more and more in the last few years, and this year’s brief was perhaps as clear a sign that they’ve ever given that the military’s future is 3D printed. Discuss this Story in the US Army 3D Printing forum on 3DPB.com.