Defense Official: Pentagon is “Turning a Corner” in 3D Printing


Share this Article

Just after the Pentagon made announcements of $270 million in new spending for US advanced manufacturing efforts in a span of less than ten days, Keith DeVries, the deputy director of the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Manufacturing Technology Program (OSD ManTech), suggested that the Department of Defense (DoD) is hitting an inflection point in its additive manufacturing (AM) capabilities. DeVries made the comments while appearing in a webinar hosted by the online publication Defense News:

In the context of discussing the US defense industrial base’s improved capabilities in metal AM, DeVries said, “Those advancements have been fundamental unto themselves. Now, it feels like we’re turning a corner and we’re trying to find what the sweet spot is for how big of a build volume is appropriate for us to apply that technology.” DeVries also pointed out, “We want to treat [AM] as a tool in the toolkit, and we want to apply it exactly where it’s necessary, and where it adds the most value.”

It may seem like this is no different from any number of similar statements endorsing AM that US defense officials have made over the last year. However, three things make this statement so notable. First, the source: as deputy director of OSD ManTech, DeVries is responsible for running day-to-day operations of one of the agencies within the US government most critical to the development of emerging technologies. Along these lines, DeVries is certainly one of the highest-ranking US defense officials to go on the record with an assessment of US progress in 3D printing.

A 3D printed deck drain assembly slated to be installed on a Virginia-class submarine. Image courtesy of Huntington Ingalls Industries

Second, the timing: speaking of high-ranking defense officials going on the record, DeVries’ comments came right after one of his bosses, William LaPlante, the assistant secretary of defense for acquisition, told an audience at the Center for a New American Security that, “We just finally last month got [Ukraine] these industrial-size 3D printers.”

These comments came about a week after LaPlante, on a panel at the Air and Space Forces Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference, said (according to National Defense), “[AM] is being used to produce parts in aircraft engines; car companies are using them for mission critical parts. …And what’s happening — and we’re seeing it in Ukraine — is it’s also changing how sustainment is done.”

The AM Coordinator Chief at the US Navy’s Southeast Regional Maintenance Center (SERMC), Nicholas Heinrich, holds a 3D printed tool for the MK Phalanx Close-In Weapons System (CIWS). Image courtesy of DVIDS, SERMC, and Scott Curtis

On the same panel, Air Force General Anthony Cotton, the commander of US Strategic Command, said that US capacity to deploy AM for production bolsters “all of those factors [that] come into play when you talk about strategic deterrence.” In other words, he confirmed the idea that AM is a main event, not a sideshow, in the US’s intensifying economic competition with China.

Third, and finally, the context: although Defense News is a familiar forum for Pentagon personnel, the fact that a DoD official said this to a news organization cannot have been accidental, but rather confirms the pattern of a deliberate media blitz by the defense establishment on behalf of AM. The Pentagon wants everyone, especially US companies and the Chinese government, to know that the US economy is prepping for big changes. This is what the “war” between the US and China in fact is, most fundamentally: a competition for investor dollars. In turn, it seems highly likely that the Pentagon will continue to make its case for 3D printing in increasingly mainstream settings of the world’s biggest battlefield, the digital media landscape.

Share this Article

Recent News

3D Printing News Briefs, April 20, 2024: Manufacturing 4.0 Consortium, Blow Molding, & More

EOS & AMCM Join Forces with University of Wolverhampton to Establish UK Centre of Excellence for Additive Manufacturing


3D Design

3D Printed Art

3D Printed Food

3D Printed Guns

You May Also Like


Why Corrosive Resistant Materials Are Important to the Success of 3D Printing Across Industries

The adoption of additive manufacturing (AM) is accelerating across many major industries. As this technological shift unfolds, the importance of corrosion resistance has emerged as a challenge for 3D printing...

America Makes Announces IMPACT 2.0: $6.6M in New 3D Printing Funding

America Makes, the Manufacturing Innovation Institute (MII) based in Youngstown, Ohio, has announced IMPACT (Improvement in Manufacturing Productivity via Additive Capabilities and Techno-Economic Analysis) 2.0, a project call which will...

3D Printing Webinar and Event Roundup: April 14, 2024

We’re starting off the week’s 3D printing webinars and events at ASTM AMCOE’s 11th Snapshot Workshop and MACH Exhibition. Stratasys continues its advanced training courses, SME is holding a virtual...

AMUK Welcomes Airframe Designs as British 3D Printing Industry Grows

While the UK is not the hub for 3D printer and materials manufacturers as other nations, the country continues to excel at the research, development, and application of additive manufacturing...