The Future of Additive Manufacturing in Air Force Acquisition
AIR WAR COLLEGE MAXWELL AFB United States
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Air Force acquisition experiences frequent criticism for its perceived shortcomings in the areas of cost, schedule, and performance. While not a panacea to the myriad of complex Air Force acquisition challenges, additive manufacturing provides significant potential benefits to cost, schedule, and performance in future Air Force acquisition if implemented methodically across every phase of the acquisition lifecycle. Applied to the Material Analysis acquisition phase, additive manufacturing provides the possibility to enable game-changing system design via lower production costs, enhanced performance possibilities, and rapid replenishment. In the Technology Maturation and Risk Reduction phase, additive manufacturing enables rapid prototype redesign to quickly test modifications to enhance capability and performance. During Engineering, Manufacturing, and Development, additive manufacturing is poised to yield both significant schedule reduction over traditional manufacturing as well as major cost savings via reduction of required materials, unique tooling, specialized production plans, and segments of the workforce. Furthermore, the Production phase of acquisition could be potentially revolutionized by additive manufacturing, enabling concepts such as a virtual aircraft fleet and on-orbit satellite production. Finally, additive manufacturing provides the following promise in Operations and Sustainment resolving diminishing manufacturing and supply problems, transformation of the warehouse, and expeditionary parts production. While additive manufacturing is not a silver bullet to Air Force acquisition problems, the prospective cost, schedule, and performance benefits cannot be ignored. The Air Force must continue to invest in and explore the technology, with particular attention to the following issues training and education, datasoftware rights, standards, research cooperation, process and policies and cybersecurity environment.
- Manufacturing and Industrial Engineering and Control of Production Systems