Building a Competitive Edge with Additive Manufacturing
Air War College Air University Maxwell AFB United States
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In a resource constrained environment, two major factors make it unlikely the United States will be properly equipped for its next war. First, the span of potential conflict ranges from counter-insurgency warfare to force-on-force confrontation with a technologically savvy peer competitor. It is impossible for the United States to optimize its force structure for every possible scenario. Second, the pace of technological change is accelerating. New and novel threat systems and technologies will proliferate faster than the United States can field systems to leverage andor counter them. As a result, the United States military must be able to design, test, manufacture and field new weapons systems and technologies much faster than it can today. Resource constraints also drive a need for the Department of Defense DoD to improve its ability to sustain its fielded systems and to cheaply and rapidly modify them to gain or maintain an advantage over its adversaries. Emerging manufacturing technologies like Additive Manufacturing can help the United States meet these challenges.Additive Manufacturing is a term that describes a set of techniques used to convert a computer-generated design to a finished structure by assembling materials incrementally, one layer at a time. Additive manufacturing techniques can be applied to a broad range of materials, including polymers plastics, metals and organics. Additive Manufacturing has the potential to dramatically improve rapid prototyping and Speed-to-Field for all the military services. It can also help the Department of Defense reduce costs, eliminate waste and streamline its supply chain.