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Biden Admin Launches U.S. 3D Printing Program: AM Forward

A decade after his predecessor, Barack Obama, launched what would become America Makes, the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has launched the AM Forward program, meant to further spur the growth of the additive manufacturing (AM) in the country. The program will see the U.S. government and giant multinationals support 3D printing initiatives, small-and-medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in various ways.

Supported by the non-profit Applied Science & Technology Research Organization (ASTRO), the federal government is working with initial AM Forward participants GE Aviation, Honeywell, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and Siemens Energy to drive AM in the country in various ways. On the public side, the Biden Administration has selected a number of federal programs that can be used to support the adoption of 3D printing by SME manufacturers. These include:

The initial members of AM Forward are also executing their strategies for increasing AM adoption in the country. They are as follows:

The goal of these programs is to achieve more resilient supply chains, while also growing new industries and reshoring production in the country. All of this is meant to be complemented by the Bipartisan Innovation Act (BIA), which creates a Supply Chain Office at the Department of Commerce, as well as aids the development of advanced manufacturing, and invests in regional tech hubs. It also enhances the funding for Manufacturing USA Institutes and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership.

In this way, the Biden Administration takes over where Obama left off, spurred in large part by the supply chain crises that have emerged as of late. The administration also suggests that this will also reduce costs for U.S. families. For all of these reasons, Biden is urging Congress to pass the BIA.

Like the Manufacturing USA Institutes established before AM Forward, we obviously see a great deal of participation from military contractors. Steered by the National Center for Defense Manufacturing & Machining, America Makes has steadily seen aerospace and military contractors, as well as other businesses, develop AM over the past decade. The military focus of the organization has, in some ways, seen these verticals developed at the expense of other 3D printing applications.

A rendering of a future hypersonics facility. Image courtesy of ASTROA.

In this way, the AM Forward program may not be all that different. In addition to this 3D printing initiative, ASTROA is involved in the development of hypersonic weapons with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. it is also working with the U.S. Army to 3D print large metal hulls for military vehicles. ASTROA President Neal Orringer led Manufacturing Technology and Defense Production programs at the Pentagon, while Executive Director Jason Gorey previously served as executive secretary for the Defense Production Act Committee and worked in human intelligence at the Defense Intelligence Agency. The rest of the group’s leadership is also closely linked to U.S. military.

However, the COVID pandemic has driven more investment into medical 3D printing. This in turn drew more attention to the technology, with the last two years resulting in tremendous growth for AM. At the moment, according to SmarTech Analysis, the sector is worth $10.6 billion. Now, Biden has officially offer material support for the sector, which will aid in the expansion of the sector to the $50 billion in revenues to be reached by 2030, as projected by SmarTech.

Feature image courtesy of Gage Skidmore.

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