The Army Times ran a recent story highlighting the push within the US Army to bring advanced manufacturing to troops in the field in a more intense manner.
Indeed, Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy “announced an advanced manufacturing policy…which looks to use technologies like 3D printing, robotics, artificial intelligence, and composite materials to change everything from how soldiers fix equipment in the field, to how much their weapon systems weigh.”
The Army’s vision is, instead of “an armor brigade combat team requesting replacement parts from a warehouse 1,000 miles away, troops could eventually have a 3D printer churning them out inside the Conex box of a sustainment brigade, putting an Abrams tank, for example, back into the fight faster and cheaper.”
McCarthy claims “the initiative he signed will put strategic guidance out to the service and industry partners to indicate the fact Army leaders will be putting the resources, people, and funding into advanced manufacturing technology in future funding plans.”
As McCarthy elaborates: “we’re already doing it in 2021, but we needed to get more aggressive so we could have a comprehensive approach. The Army has had some success in looking at advanced manufacturing concepts, such as the work done in 3D-printing at Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois, where a Center of Excellence for Advanced and Additive Manufacturing was completed in May. We want to now tie that with all the research and development efforts we have with Army Futures Command, bring [Army Materiel Command] together.”
“If you had an expeditionary capability, for example, to print parts, you’d be able to extend the range of a brigade combat team. Their ability to replace parts quickly, doing it within hours, as supposed to weeks. … There’s an immediate return where you can put it in to tactical formations…A key principle in manufacturing weapons systems is how do you find ways to reduce the weight of the weapon system so it is faster and it can carry more weapons or avionics payloads, because you reduced the weight of parts.”
As another US Army spokesperson added: “China has been investing significantly. They’re predicted to be the largest user of robotics in production by the year 2025. They just bought 400,000 3D printers and they’re putting them in every elementary school in the next two years. If we don’t start taking action, we will fall behind and we need to catch up.”
Image and Quotes Courtesy of the US Army and The Army Times