DETROIT ARSENAL, Mich. — Maj. Gen. Darren Werner, commanding general of U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command, spoke about the Army’s ongoing modernization and logistics priorities at the additive manufacturing-focused RAPID + TCT conference, held from May 2-4, 2023. At the event, Werner advocated for building essential public-private sector partnerships to fulfill the Army’s ongoing modernization needs and “future mission requirements … within an ever-increasing margin of safety.”
The annual conference dubs itself “North America’s most influential additive manufacturing conference,” where multiple public and private entities meet to discuss the potential of additive manufacturing, shortened as AM. The industrial practice is more widely known as 3D printing and has, as Werner commented, historically faced issues with scaling its technology to meet demand. However, he stated that the promise of the industrial practice is seen as especially important to the Army’s modernization efforts. “Large-scale additive manufacturing gives us additional capabilities to create the new tools and techniques for much larger production,” Werner said, noting also that recent investments by the Army had increased the versatility of AM.
Werner stated that in addition to the Army focusing on modernization, a recent $20 million investment from Congress has enabled the Army to expand its own manufacturing capabilities. The creation of the Jointless Hull machine — in effect, a giant 3D printer — at Rock Island Arsenal's Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center was “inevitable” and a major step toward keeping U.S. military vehicle construction “ready for any requirement.” The Jointless Hull expands the military’s manufacturing capabilities amid an environment of complex logistics for military essentials.
“No longer are AM designs limited to small parts or prototypes; [we can] create a complete combat vehicle hull without any of the inevitable weak areas,” said Werner. This illustrates just one of the immediate advantages greater adoption of AM techniques could bring to the battlefield. He noted that this enhanced capability was a product of collaboration between private industry and the military.
With key featured speakers at the event, the RAPID + TCT conference attendees hear thought leaders like the general discuss their organizations’ needs and concerns with their private-sector counterparts. One of those concerns remains the complex logistics of current military needs, to say nothing of future needs.
Noting that the RIA-JMTC’s Jointless Hull will enable a “print-on-demand" capability for tools and parts, Werner also pointed out that continuing to advance technology and adoption of AM may “alleviate some of the supply chain issues that plague production.” Deepening public-private partnerships along these lines is a priority in order to make this happen, according to Werner. “We need all of you to play a part.”
The event provided a forum for ideas such as Werner’s and facilitated public-private coordination. The general’s presence at the conference stems from the Army’s ongoing focus on melding the military’s logistical needs with the private sector’s industrial capacity.
According to Werner, overcoming obstacles to building the Army of 2030 and beyond requires dedicated time and effort to deepen partnerships and attract and retain vital talent.