SPEE3D, the Australian 3D printing original equipment manufacturer (OEM), announced that the company was one of six winners of the Department of Defense Manufacturing Technology (DoD ManTech) “Point of Need Challenge”. SPEE3D specializes in providing cold spray metal additive manufacturing (AM) solutions that work under extreme conditions.
Thus, the company was a fitting choice to compete for one of the Point of Need Challenges, which paired contestants with designated Manufacturing USA institutes. SPEE3D and LIFT — a Manufacturing USA institute headquartered in Detroit — won the “Staying in the Fight Challenge”, which comes with a $2.5 million investment from DoD ManTech, and another $700,000 from private industry partners. (The other two categories were the “Warfighter Medical, Health, and Nutrition Challenge”, and the “Cyber Challenge”.)
Contestants presented their proposals to a panel of judges from various agencies within DoD, at the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) Institute in Pittsburgh. The award money will fund execution of SPEE3D’s winning proposal: realizing the capability to successfully 3D print metal parts “in sub-freezing environments equivalent in quality to the same parts printed” on the same machines under optimal conditions. The project is set to culminate later this year in a live exercise at the US Army’s Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CREEL), in Hanover, NH.
As former deputy secretary of defense David Norquist recently pointed out, in a speech about the US’s desperate need to strengthen its defense industrial base, the DoD lost a fairly shocking 43.1 percent of its small business vendors between 2016 and 2022. Presumably, much of that was due to consolidation, decoupling from China, etc., but no matter the explanation, the end result remains that the US military has to both broaden and diversify its supply chains at a record pace.
This sheds light on another theme from Norquist’s speech: the US’s need to embrace economic unity with its allies and partners around the world. And both considerations, in turn, provide context for why the US military is so interested in a company like SPEE3D, which can help shore up military infrastructure for NATO and its partners in the Pacific, close to the point of need.
Add to that the fact that the company’s platforms are explicitly designed for forward deployment, and it becomes easy to see how SPEE3D could go through the stages of scale-up mode very quickly. That would be important not only for the company itself, but also for anyone paying attention who is trying to guess where the AM sector is headed over the next few years.
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