The Additive Manufacturing Coalition has begun hosting members only roundtables with members of the White House. The goal of the discussions, two of which have occurred so far, is to establish a dialogue between the AM community and those making important policy decisions at the federal level.
The first roundtable occurred on April 22, 2022, where members of the trade association were able to hear from and share thoughts with Liz Reynolds, Special Assistant to the President for Manufacturing and Economic Development with the White House National Economic Council. There, Reynolds discussed the administration’s policy approaches to AM, including its focus on the adoption of 3D printing by small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) within the federal supply chain. This strategy was later cemented in the AM Forward program announced by President Joe Biden in May.
Members of the coalition applauded the goals stated by Reynolds, but also noted that there were already businesses using AM that were attempting to integrate themselves into the federal supply chain. However, they were having trouble engaging with the federal government. Fortunately, Reynolds followed up with a second roundtable on July 12, where AM Coalition members were able to discuss those challenges in more detail.
This time around, members raised issues associated with the current federal procurement process. This included basic issues, such as how to interface with the proper entities as the Department of Defense (DoD) and other agencies, as well as more complex topics. For instance,
intellectual property protections were brought up, as were challenges with software development. Members also addressed the limitations on service and training contracts, which inhibit the ability of government agencies to take full advantage of the capabilities of the printers they purchase and limit the effectiveness of the maintenance.
Altogether, the conversation raised awareness on the part of the current administration about obstacles faced by AM industry stakeholders. In particular, it made it clear that the federal government may need to revisit its standard original equipment manufacturer-subcontractor method for procurement.
Traditionally, the federal government, especially the DoD, allows its large, prime contractors, such as defense companies, to manage subcontractors. This makes it difficult for SMEs to navigate the federal agencies and enter the procurement stream. For instance, an AM company that make products for end users doesn’t have the same access points as a military subcontractor that manufactures components for a subassembly on a massive government project, like a fighter jet. Therefore, 3D printing SMEs may have a hard time working with the federal government unless it is through one of these prime contractors and as one single entity collaborating on a large project.
These roundtables were just the beginning for the AM Coalition. In addition to hosting further members-only events, as well as public webinars, the group is in the process of compiling the comments made during the call with Reynolds and will forward a more detailed explanation of the issues raised to the Biden administration.
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