The governments of various countries have recognized the role of additive manufacturing (AM) in fostering economic development. To develop the AM infrastructure in the USA, on May 06, 2022, President Joe Biden launched a program called Additive Manufacturing Forward.
The initiative mainly aims to improve the supply chain and support the manufacturing sector in the USA. The vulnerabilities in the USA supply chain became critical after the COVID-19 crisis. Supply chain management became challenging mainly for the low volume high mix parts (LVHM) that are widely used in all types of industries. Additionally, it was identified by the government that critical sectors such as aviation and energy, automotive, medical device, and national security-related industries were also affected due to issues in the supply chain of LVHM. As AM technologies can reduce the lead times for the LVHM parts by 90%, AM forward’s main aim was kept to improve the AM ecosystem in the USA with the main focus on improving the supply chain.
The article by AM Chronicle summarizes the key aspects of “Additive Manufacturing Forward” (AM Forward) and helps understand the role of the initiative for the economic development of USA and AM companies worldwide.
AM forward and the administrative goals
One of the critical administrative goals of the USA government is to develop more reliable and innovative supply chains. The second goal of the USA government is to ensure the growth of industries in future and to overcome the coordination challenge for new technologies. The third goal is to promote local manufacturing and innovations in the country.
The AM forward initiative believes that the AM technologies will help businesses and entrepreneurs innovate at a rapid phase, improve the productivity of manufacturing units by local production, and help develop the regional technology hubs. Overall, the government finds AM technology to be a significant technology for achieving long-term and short-term administrative goals.
Role of American companies in AM forward
The government of the USA has identified five iconic manufacturers as an initial voluntary partner of AM forwards, which are G.E. Aviation, Honeywell, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and Siemens Energy. As most of the small manufacturers in the USA are not using AM technologies, these companies will help develop the training and support facility for them. Additionally, they will also help in adapting the ability of AM technologies to produce spare parts in real-time, as this will improve the supply chain throughout the counties. They have also been identified for providing technical assistance to the supplier and developing standards and certification of AM parts. In general, the companies will act as a catalyst in developing AM infrastructure in the USA.
One of the critical points of the AM forward is that the initial voluntary companies will be committed to specific goals that will undoubtedly bring development in additive manufacturing infrastructure in the USA. For example, G.E. Aviation will target that the local AM suppliers fulfil 30% of its external AM sourcing in the USA. Raytheon will also encourage the SME manufacturer involvement in its quotes for AM products, Siemens Energy will purchase 20% -40% of its AM parts locally, Lockheed Martin will work to conduct research and development on AM technologies, and Honeywell will offer technical assistance to SME suppliers for AM.
How will AM Forward help to solve the key challenges in manufacturing?
Under the initiative, the government will provide SMEs with financial support to install AM equipment and machines. The 504 Loan Program and Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) initiative can be used to take the financial support. Additionally, the federal will also provide technical assistance and support to utilize the additive manufacturing capacity to the full extent. The Department of Energy will provide the support through its facility available at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The AM forward program also aims to provide skill training to the workforce for additive manufacturing.
Furthermore, a curriculum for training will be developed with the support of the U.S. Department of Labor to assist the manufacturers with programs in AM. As 3D printing is different from conventional manufacturing, it requires different standards. Hence, under the AM forward new standards will be developed with the participation of the U.S. Department of Commerce, ASTM International, American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
AM Forward an Open Initiative
The AM forward is a voluntary initiative and can be joined by anyone willing to make commitments to develop AM infrastructure. The initiative will be supported by the Applied Science & Technology Research Organization (ASTRO), a non-profit organization, and all the updates regarding the program will be shared on the ASTRO website.