Biden’s Executive Waiver Is Latest Boon to Military 3D Printing

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Last week, U.S. President Joseph Biden signed an executive waiver for certain spending limitations set by one of the administration’s earliest executive orders. Specifically, through the Defense Production Act (DPA), the waiver will allow divisions within the Department of Defense (DoD) to spend in excess of $50 million without congressional authorization on “critical supply chains for electronics, kinetic capabilities, castings and forgings, minerals and materials, and power and energy storage”.

Already, it seems that multiple defense contractors are positioning themselves to benefit from the new law. This, in turn, should also benefit additive manufacturing (AM) companies like Sintavia (of Hollywood, FL), as well as defense suppliers with strong AM capabilities, like Canada’s Magellan Aerospace Corporation.

Image courtesy of Sintavia

Sintavia, a metal AM service provider, announced it had been awarded a contract with Bechtel Plant Machinery, Inc (BPMI), to develop a Florida AM facility for the U.S. Navy. The facility will support the United States Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, in the latest of many recent U.S. Navy submarine projects related to AM. The site is expected to come online in Q2 of this year, which seems like a rather quick deadline.

Sintavia founder and CEO Brian Neff commented, “[A] full adoption of [AM] is not possible without investments in the materials, processes, and quality systems needed to additively produce these difficult systems successfully and repeatedly — investments that Sintavia has been making over the past seven years. As the US Navy looks to develop advanced submarine platforms, it is imperative that additive technology plays a central role in that development.”

Meanwhile, Magellan has signed a long-term agreement (LTA) with Raytheon subsidiary Collins Aerospace to manufacture sand castings for producing magnesium and aluminum aerospace components. Magellan was one of the earliest innovators of sand 3D printing, a technology most often used to make castings for metal parts.

 In a Magellan press release about the LTA with Collins, Haydn Martin, Magellan’s VP of Business Development, Marketing and Contracts commented, “The signing of this LTA extension is built on a strong foundation of collaboration between our two companies over many decades. Magellan’s casting centers of excellence are tailored for meeting the needs of these important Collins Programs.”

Image courtesy of Magellan Aerospace.

Those two stories followed an announcement made by GE the day after the executive waiver was published outlining that the company would invest almost half a billion dollars in American manufacturing in 2023, including $16 million so far that is explicitly going towards AM. Relevant to all three AM sector announcements, the section of the DPA that authorizes the president to make such an executive waiver justifies it when “action is necessary to avert an industrial resource or critical technology item shortfall that would severely impair national defense capability.”

In addition to being exactly the types of investments that the Biden administration’s executive waiver calls for, these are also the exact types of investments I argued were inevitable in a PRO post from last month, “Buy Like Boeing.” It is notable, along those lines, that Raytheon — Collins’ parent company — and GE Additive are both members of the Biden administration’s AM Forward initiative. While Bechtel is not a member, the company, like all the AM Forward members, is virtually an arm of the U.S. government.

It’s too soon to say whether a shockingly larger than expected amount of money is about to be poured into the AM sector by the U.S. government, but these are exactly the types of things that I would expect would happen in the initial stages of that scenario.

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