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Your Next Airplane: Just Hit Print

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Air Command And Staff College Maxwell Air Force Base United States

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In 2011, very few people had ever heard of 3-D printing. By early 2012, 3-D printing was buzzing daily on most technology news feeds. Articles by the dozens promised every American access to cheap and near instant fabrication. If left to development only by those envisioning cheap plastic gimmicks, 3-D printing will fail to significantly impact the market, but if properly managed, 3-D printing can revolutionize the military through three principal benefits cost, capability, and flexibility. 3-D printing will enable the military to save costs by decreasing the material used for production, decreasing the requirement for supply chain infrastructure and movement, decreasing the requirement to keep large quantities of back stock in anticipation of part failure, and by enabling more cost efficient production for limited run or obsolete parts. The capability improvement comes from lighter parts made possible by 3-D printing, cheap customization increasing warfighter effectiveness, decreasing mean time to repair, and decreasing supply lines. Finally, flexibility comes with 3-D printings already significant contributions to rapid prototyping. While DARPA has promoted many programs at universities, in order to maximize influence in shaping the applications of this new technology, the military must continue to get more involved. Each day, new applications arise, many of which can be tailored to either commercial benefit or military utility. For the military to steer the dialogue over the upcoming 30 years, involvement is required now.

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Technical Report




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Approved For Public Release;

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