The DOD has been experimenting with additive manufacturing (AM) since it began to emerge in the 1980s. Some of the first DOD AM adopters were in the sustainment community, and to facilitate joint collaborations, the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Materiel Readiness launched the Additive Manufacturing for Maintenance Operations (AMMO) working group in 2015.
In 2017, the DOD Manufacturing Technology (ManTech) Office created the Joint Additive Manufacturing Working Group (JAMWG), demonstrating a broad enterprise-level commitment to additive technologies. The JAMWG was chartered to foster collaboration among military services and defense agencies to support the implementation of AM. The JAMWG consists of action officers and subject matter experts from across the DOD under the oversight of the Joint Defense Manufacturing Council (JDMC), a senior DOD leadership council focused on manufacturing. The DOD AM community established a comprehensive set of activities following the previously successful approach used in digital engineering:
- Create a DOD-wide AM strategy
- Release DOD Instruction (DODI) 5000.93, “Use of Additive Manufacturing in the DOD”
- Provide AM implementation guidance
- Support military service implementation plans
- Identify joint focus areas and priorities
- Budget and resource appropriately
These activities saw fruition in January 2021, with the approval of the DOD AM Strategy. On June 10, 2021, DOD published the DODI 5000.93.
This policy document is a comprehensive plan to implement AM throughout DOD based on the themes and goals of the AM Strategy. The purpose of the instruction is to establish policy, assign responsibilities, and provide implementation procedures. It provides unified direction across the DOD, ensuring alignment and collaboration while minimizing duplication of effort.
DODI 5000.93 begins by stating that the DOD will “seek to use AM to support joint force commanders and combatant command theater requirements, transform maintenance operations and supply chains, increase logistics resiliency, and improve self-sustainment and readiness for the Military Services.” In other words, the DOD’s policy signals that AM is no longer just a bit player—its impacts are multi-dimensional for the services.
The policy then pivots to the industrial base, directing: “Apply AM to enhance the DOD’s industrial base, including small businesses, in order to advance weapon systems capabilities and sustainment.” The guidance document directs the Department to ensure adequate resourcing for AM plans, programs, and requirements. The policy recognizes that the DOD and many of its suppliers currently use AM, so it emphasizes the importance for the AM community to collaborate, share best practices, and collect lessons learned. Simultaneously, the policy recommends that the DOD provide education and workforce development to expand the base of AM-knowledgeable individuals including equipment operators, engineers, deployed personnel, research and development (R&D) personnel, contracting officers, item managers, logisticians, acquisition professionals, and leaders. In addition, it establishes that AM must be used securely, which requires the DOD to deploy a secure cyber-physical infrastructure while at the same time protecting the DOD’s investments in AM technology development from exploitation by strategic competitors.
DODI 5000.93 is built on the DOD’s recognition of an existing foundation of AM usage within the military services and defense agencies, a wide range of efforts for which the defense maintenance and sustainment community has been a leader. For example, there is widespread adoption of thermoplastic material extrusion printing at depots for tooling, fixtures, and jigs, saving flow time and corresponding material and process specifications for laser powder bed fusion of Titanium-6 Aluminum-4 Vanadium. This AM process and the material are useful for DOD aerospace and weight-critical applications. In addition, qualification procedures and acceptance criteria should be aligned with cost. Desktop-sized printers have been deployed on ships at sea, providing an on-demand source for parts such as knobs, drains, porthole covers, and locker safety covers. Recently, the Air Force-led Pacer Edge program has demonstrated metal AM at the depot producing qualified parts for the F110 engine on the F-16 fighter.
The policy assigns specific AM responsibilities to the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, the DOD Chief Information Officer, the Director of the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the secretaries of the military departments (MILDEPs), defense agencies, and DOD field activities with AM requirements. The policy then outlines procedures and guidance for OSD, military departments, defense agencies, and DOD field activities with AM requirements. These cover eight critical areas:
- research and engineering,
- integration into the supply chain,
- data management,
- data and equipment security,
- specifications and standards,
- training and education, and
We will explore the meaning and impact of some of these here.
The Front End: Research, Engineering, and Acquisition
Greater investment into AM R&D will help the DOD maintain an edge over competitors. For qualification and certification to be both rapid and robust, it is vital that the DOD and its partners conduct R&D into materials and processes to increase the reliability of the AM process and guarantee part quality. An example use of this directive is the Joint Metal Additive Database Definition Pathfinder Project, which started in October 2020 and will continue into the fall of 2022. This project is creating a publicly available, statistically substantiated material property database, along with common standards, specifications, and practices.
From an engineering standpoint, AM adoption needs to be risk-informed, which means that the probability and the consequences of failure are considered before acceptance of AM for an application. To do this, AM risk definitions will be consistent across the DOD. In 2020, OSD and DLA launched and sponsored the Joint AM Acceptability (JAMA) project to identify common AM data sets and standardized risk criteria. JAMA and other related projects from the military services will inform policies to define the level of qualification, certification, risk evaluation, and approval authority to use AM parts in a system.
To take full advantage of AM, it must be incorporated throughout the acquisition process. OEM designers can use the design freedom afforded by AM to improve performance (i.e., reduce weight, enhance thermal management, increase wear resistance, etc.) and reduce part count through consolidation. The transformative nature of AM alongside other digital manufacturing processes is critical to weapons systems modernization. When bringing AM into the acquisition process, contracts and agreements should address the AM parts and data needed for maintenance and sustainment. Contracts and data requirements need to be constructed in a way that enables AM and ensures DOD personnel can access the data throughout the life cycle of the system. The DOD can work with contractors to make sure that system documentation will identify parts that are, or could be, produced using AM.
AM Integration into the Supply Chain
AM is being used by the organic industrial base within the DOD and the industrial supply chain outside of the DOD. The expansion of approved sources of AM parts and existing AM capabilities within the organic industrial base will allow the DOD to better support materiel readiness requirements. Military services with AM capabilities are to establish processes and procedures to support rapidly manufacturing AM parts to meet demand urgency. The organic industrial base needs to expand its understanding of how AM can be used, based on the requirements and use case.
DLA will take a lead role in collaborating with the military services, other defense agencies and DOD field activities to integrate AM into supply chain processes. This means DLA and DOD supply organizations must have the necessary technical data packages and qualification criteria to share with vendors. Common standards are the foundation for this goal. DLA will catalog AM parts information and track vendors who have successfully delivered AM parts and raw materials.
The Department is leveraging expertise within the US government, industry, and academia to establish a capable and resilient AM supply chain. This includes engagement with the public-private partnerships known as Manufacturing Innovation Institutes (MII). The MIIs encourage and enable nontraditional and small businesses to leverage an ecosystem designed to mature manufacturing technologies like AM and grow the US manufacturing base. The OSD ManTech Program in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering provides guidance and oversight to the DOD-sponsored MIIs, thereby enabling collaboration among government agencies, universities, nonprofits, and companies to develop critical advanced manufacturing technologies; build supply chains around these technologies; and train the workforce in the skills required to deploy these technologies. Founded in 2012, America Makes was the first DOD-led MII and is focused on supporting and growing the AM industry. Manufacturing x Digital (MxD), another DOD-sponsored MII, operates in a complementary space to America Makes, focusing its mission on expanding digital manufacturing and design that supports AM scale-up and adoption.
Data is Key: Data Management and Data Security
The DOD must adopt a common data package standard and format for AM in accordance with standards such as MIL-STD-31000 “Technical Data Packages” and ISO/ASTM 52915:2020 “Specification for additive manufacturing file format (AMF) Version 1.2.” This will allow the DOD to leverage AM widely across the enterprise and the supply chain throughout the life cycle of a weapons system. In line with the DOD Digital Engineering Strategy, the services and agencies are directed by DODI 5000.93 to advance AM through enabling the use of a model-based engineering manufacturing tool suite. The DOD needs an interoperable data management capability to allow DOD entities to securely access and share, buy, or license AM data as required. An example of this capability is the Joint Additive Manufacturing Model Exchange (JAMMEX) developed by the DOD in conjunction with America Makes and operated by DLA for all the military services and defense agencies. The Department must provide digital business information and data systems to support the use of AM across the entire life cycle.
Standards and Specifications
Standards and specifications are key to enabling qualification and certification across the DOD, sharing of data internal and external to DOD, engaging the supply chain, and developing the AM workforce. The DOD will use industry standards as much as possible. DOD personnel develop, use, and share DOD-specific specifications and standards only when it’s impractical to use industry standards. Overall, it is important that DOD personnel support the work of standards development organizations (SDOs). America Makes and American National Standards Institute (ANSI) partnered to launch the AM Standards Collaborative (AMSC) in March 2016. AMSC has created a standardization roadmap for AM and tracks standardization gaps. This is a forum to know what standards are available and where DOD personnel can support industry standards development.
Training and Education
The DOD’s AM Strategy, released in January 2021, identifies “three key tenets to developing and maintaining AM proficiency. They are to: 1) Learn processes and best practices, 2) Practice the discipline of making parts, and 3) Share knowledge.” DODI 5000.93 provides the plan to implement the “learn, practice, and share” tenets. It directs OSD, MILDEPs, defense agencies, and DOD field activities with AM requirements to provide AM training and certification not just for equipment operators and engineers, but also to administer relevant training to managers, maintainers, and acquisition professionals. DOD training should align with industry-recognized stackable credentials to support career development of DOD AM personnel. Additionally, investment in AM research and education within the DOD and its external partners will simultaneously advance the technology and skill sets. JAMWG’s Additive Manufacturing Mapping and Portal for Education (AMMPED) project led by America Makes will provide the DOD with a map and portal of AM training in order to fill common content gaps in AM training. Additionally, Defense Acquisition University is actively providing DOD personnel with online AM training courses and use case webinars.
With approval of DODI 5000.93, DOD identified major activities and organizational responsibilities for implementing the DOD’s Additive Manufacturing Strategy. The policy will align AM efforts across the enterprise and encourage collaboration. To realize the comprehensive approach, the military departments are currently working on generating AM implementation plans aligned with DODI 5000.93. This action will be completed by summer 2022. The AM Guidebook (planned for release sometime in 2022), will accelerate implementation by identifying and sharing best practices across the DOD. Annually, the JAMWG will identify areas of common focus requiring (or benefitting from) joint solutions. Identification of the focus areas will help direct budget resources to achieve the strategic goals and realize the vision.