ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- The U.S. Army will provide research expertise in the rapidly growing area of additive manufacturing to the Defense Logistics Agency in a recently announced partnership.
DLA officials have been exploring how additive manufacturing, commonly known as 3-D printing, could help lower the cost of certain military repair parts and fill in gaps where material and manufacturing are sparse, said Kelly Morris, chief of research and development for DLA Logistics Operations.
Andy Davis, program manager of the Army Manufacturing Technology Program, said Army scientists and engineers have the technical knowledge and experience necessary to use additive manufacturing to help DLA meets its goals in reducing logistics burdens.
The memorandum of agreement between DLA and the Army Research, Development and Engineering Command formalizes the collaboration. DLA and the Navy previously signed an MOA for the service's logistics requirements, and the Air Force is developing a partnership as well.
"This MOA is the direct product of an integrated DOD additive manufacturing technology roadmap facilitated by America Makes: The National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, formed in response to the president's emphasis on advanced manufacturing," Davis said. "It signifies a unified approach that brings together the DOD R&D community to accelerate the implementation of additive manufacturing to benefit our Soldiers."
The relationship establishes a mechanism for DLA to provide R&D funding to RDECOM's seven research centers and laboratories.
Morris said this emerging technology could dramatically reduce the time it takes to get parts to defense organizations and, in most cases, minimize or eliminate the need for transportation and storage fees.
Once parts are produced, DLA would work with RDECOM to evaluate feasibility of testing, evaluation and acceptance of items, also known as first-article testing, into the supply system, Morris said.
RDECOM would be responsible for testing and certifying that additively manufactured parts meet structural standards.
RDECOM will concentrate its R&D efforts on three additive-manufacturing thrust areas to improve logistics, Davis said.
-- Mature scan-to-production processes in support of supplying hard-to-source parts where no technical data exists. This would involve conducting three-dimensional data capture to acquire technical data and produce via appropriate additive-manufacturing process (i.e., direct additive manufacturing, indirect additive-manufacturing [rapid tooling]).
-- Establish processing parameters for enabling the use of recycled, reclaimed and indigenous materials (i.e., battlefield scrap/waste) for additive-manufacturing processing.
-- Mature and demonstrate point of need/expeditionary manufacturing using additive-manufacturing processes.
The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command has the mission to ensure decisive overmatch for unified land operations to empower the Army, the joint warfighter and our nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.