Additive manufacturing (AM), also called 3D printing, is a powerful technology with the potential to transform military logistics. The state of the art is progressing exponentially. The benefits of AM extend throughout the value chain, from design and manufacture to the maintainer and the warfighter. As additional materials and processes are developed, new uses are found. It is essential that the DoD be prepared for the paradigm shift enabled by distributed, digital manufacturing. The maintenance and sustainment communities have a vested interest in AM. They must be on the forefront of planning for the needs of all involved.
More than 20 years ago, with the help of NCMS, the DoD began investigating AM for rapid prototyping. Advances in the technology have now opened up a myriad of valuable new applications. Beginning in 2012, engineers attached to deployed troops in Afghanistan began exploring the benefits of 3D printing on the battlefield. The Navy has demonstrated the value of deploying the AM capability aboard ship and printing non-critical, but valuable items while underway. The Marine Corps has authorized the purchase of 3D printers for use in combat zones making items such as surgical splints, masks, and other needed supplies. They have also completed AM construction projects including a concrete barracks hut and bridge. As AM becomes a mainstream aspect of the supply chain, the Navy recognizes the need for a guide to help contract specialists and program managers navigate the murky waters of writing contracts for the acquisition of AM fabricated items.
NCMS has taken the organizational lead on creating this innovative document. Built on the experience derived from three previous workshop and wargame exercises, a cadre of subject matter experts produced the first draft of the guide. It was then reviewed by beta readers and those who participated in the initial exercises. The guide is now being reviewed by a matrix of specialists from across the DoD experienced in fields such as intellectual property law, contracts, engineering, logistics, and AM.
Tentatively titled Acquisition and Contracting Guidebook: Additive Manufacturing, this document will cover such topics as:
- Benefits and limitations of using AM
- Technical considerations
- Intellectual property considerations
- Design considerations
- Illustrations for use
- Many more
This guidebook will be supplemental to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) and the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS). It is not intended to be a detailed account of how to bring an AM part from nascence through design, test, production, fielding, and sustainment. Rather it focuses on the required contractual language and deliverables, coupled with effective management of intellectual property, to forge mutually beneficial business relationships with industry.
“Currently our contracting guides are dedicated to parts manufactured traditionally, but there are requirements particular to AM that need to be addressed, primarily dealing with data management and intellectual property. This AM Contracting Guidebook is the first of its kind dedicated to considerations contracting officers should contemplate when purchasing AM parts or services. This document will serve as the baseline for the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps,” says Captain Jason Bridges, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.
Spearheaded by the Navy, the AM Contracting Guidebook is meant to be a resource for the entire DoD enterprise. AM is no longer a novel alternative to traditional manufacturing. The information in this guide will not only become extremely relevant but also organic so it can stay applicable as the technology changes.