Building the Military of Tomorrow

| The Essentium Team

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3d printing military

The U.S. military is at a crossroads. As the sun sets on fossil-fuel-based manned aircraft, tanks, and ships, it’s rising on a new military digital age. The focus is now on 21st-century technologies like cybersecurity tools, space-based weapon systems, and autonomous drones with precision electronics powered by clean energy and driven by artificial intelligence. While the U.S. remains well prepared for large-scale conflict, smaller moving targets are proving difficult to extinguish. As such, the U.S. military is seeking new solutions that increase its agility and allow for quick, appropriate-scaled response to any threat. For example, military assets that utilize renewable energy sources or battery power are cheaper and stealthier, easier to maintain, and eliminate the need for vulnerable supply and refueling convoys.

Toward that end, some branches of the Department of Defense (DoD) are changing the way they do business to capitalize on the innovation taking place in the private sector. For example, AFWERX is an Air Force program tasked with accelerating technology development into the battlefield through various efforts. One of its first efforts, AFVentures, recently expanded its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) initiative to give small businesses and startups a chance to compete with the larger defense contractors for Air Force projects.

Another AFWERX effort, Prime, is intended to seed or prime the market for technologies that could advance national security and defense. Among the first initiatives rolled out under this umbrella is Agility Prime. Its mission is to identify and fund partnership opportunities with private sector companies in the U.S. to speed the development of flying cars and drones, a technology with the potential for all kinds of military and civilian applications. More Prime programs are on the way.

Additive manufacturing is a cutting-edge technology that can and will contribute to Agility Prime and other Prime missions through its ability to facilitate the design and testing of components needed to transform next-generation concepts into reality. Whereas programs like  AFVentures are designed to allow smaller players to present new ideas to the DoD, the goal of Prime is to accelerate technology development and adoption across entire markets.

Essentium’s implementation of 3D printing technology, called High Speed Extrusion, is designed to do just that. The HSE™ 3D Printing Platform offers great potential for innovation in the areas of rapid prototyping, material testing and formulation, ground tooling, and the lightweighting of parts for flying cars, drones, and space-based assets. With regard to mission-readiness, additive manufacturing can shorten supply chains by printing replacement parts on-demand—even at the point of need if necessary. The flexibility of tools like the Essentium HSE 3D Printer allows engineers to design with complete freedom, speeding the development process. Print a replacement drone propeller blade one day and prototypes for a satellite antenna the next—no retooling required.

The military of tomorrow will create solutions much faster than they do today. They will do it through partnerships with smaller businesses and startups that have the agility to keep pace with changing objectives and help transform the military for the digital age. Enabling technologies like Essentium’s HSE 3D Printer is just one tool in the toolbox manufacturers can use to take advantage of the chance to partner with the DoD, one of the largest customers in the world.

If you would like to learn more about how additive manufacturing can support the modernization goals of the U.S. military, or how to get involved with the Air Force through programs like AFWERX, contact us at Essentium.com, we’d be happy to help.

Essentium, Inc. provides industrial 3D printing solutions that are disrupting traditional manufacturing processes by bringing product strength and production speed together, at scale, with an open ecosystem and material set. Essentium manufactures and delivers innovative industrial 3D printers and materials enabling the world’s top manufacturers to bridge the gap between 3D printing and machining to embrace the future of additive manufacturing.

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