As reported in Defense News, Deputy Director of the US Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Manufacturing Technology Program, Keith DeVries, stated that the “tremendous leaps” in Additive Manufacturing – including increasingly large-scale production options – has opened up opportunities for its use in the defence sector, calling it a “game changer”.
DeVries emphasised use cases of Additive Manufacturing already employed by the US Department of Defense, including as-needed replacement components and rapid prototyping.
“We’ve even seen bird strikes repaired on aircraft overnight, or in a few days, through Additive Manufacturing,” DeVries told Defense News.
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“[The use of high-entropy and resistant-metal to additively manufacture parts] 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,” he added. “In the defence side … having the ability to print a runway or a hangar or something literally overnight can be amazing.”
Another possible use for Additive Manufacturing could be in the production of components for hypersonic weapons, such as scramjet propulsion systems with complex chambers. By additively manufacturing components such as these, it would eliminate the required testing of the joins created during traditional manufacturing.
“Being able to incorporate Additive Manufacturing is enabling us to manufacture complexity that has not been able under the subtractive, traditional manufacturing methods,” DeVries said.
DeVries did, however, emphasise that Additive Manufacturing will be treated as a tool in a kit, rather than as the department’s main focus.