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Velo3D Releases Defense 3D Printing White Paper with AM Research

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3DPrint.com’s sibling company, the market research firm/consultancy Additive Manufacturing (AM) Research, has collaborated with original equipment manufacturer (OEM) Velo3D to create a white paper titled “3D Printing and the Defense Sector: The Future is Now.” The white paper, which outlines the main reasons behind the increasing interest in 3D printing that defense contractors and militaries have demonstrated in recent years, is freely available for download here.

The white paper places a particular emphasis on the Department of Defense (DoD) and the US defense industrial base (DIB), explaining how US strategic competition with China has become the main factor determining global military demand for more and more AM applications. Alongside other major considerations, the DoD’s need to link up US manufacturing capabilities with those of US allies and partners has catalyzed an acceleration of R&D and commercialization of enabling technologies for supply chain digitalization — with AM chief among those.

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

As the white paper notes, “Long lead times for the delivery of new parts are anathema to any organization whose success depends largely on the constant flow of manufactured goods. Militaries cannot survive without the constantly available, unquestioned supply of new parts. This makes long lead times an issue of national security. The US DIB is the critical market to consider — no matter what other nations one considers — as US-China competition is what’s driving and shaping demand. The US is responsible for about 40 percent of military spending globally, meaning that keeping DoD supplied will never be something that the US can achieve alone.”

Image courtesy of Velo3D

As defense applications for AM continue to mature more and more rapidly, there is a growing importance for every company/stakeholder in the AM sector — and not just those directly involved in the defense market — to pay close attention to what DoD is doing with AM. As both the white paper and the 2023 AM Research report, “Additive Manufacturing for Military and Defense,” make clear, the scope of military AM activity is clearly signaling the near-future trajectory for all other major industrial sectors.

For instance, the DoD has been at the forefront of the US government’s reshoring efforts, a history that seemed to hit a major inflection point in 2023. As AM becomes more central to manufacturing reshoring initiatives around the globe, it can be expected that AM activity in every sector will more closely resemble what the DoD is doing with AM.

That is particularly important to keep in mind, given the need of other areas of the public sector to catch up and stay apace with DoD’s advanced manufacturing progress. The Department of Energy, Department of Commerce, and other areas of the US government and governments across the world will all be taking their leads to some substantial extent from the precedents being set by DoD. That is, even if you bristle at the idea of AM’s role as a defense technology, you can still draw lessons from the example to take the DoD’s model and run with it, to whatever extent possible in your own preferred sphere of use-cases.

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