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New Technology Has Major Role in Manufacturing Weapons of Future

Nov. 8, 2019 | BY David Vergun
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3D technology will play a major role in how weapons of the future are manufactured, the Defense Department's deputy director for strategic technology protection and exploitation said.

Kristen Baldwin said weapon parts could be quickly prototyped using "additive manufacturing" in which 3D parts are created from digital data models that are fabricated by the successive layering of materials. Additive manufacturing could play a role in the development of hypersonic weapons.

 Speaking yesterday at the Defense One-sponsored panel on next generation manufacturing, Baldwin noted that traditional manufacturing in which parts are forged by machining and turning is much slower.

Lady on panel speaks
Next-Gen Manufacturing
Kristen Baldwin, DOD’s deputy director for strategic technology protection and exploitation, spoke at the Defense One-sponsored panel on “Next-Generation Manufacturing” in Washington, Nov. 7, 2019. From left are: moderator, Marcus Weisgerber, global business editor, Defense One; Neil Orringer, president, Applied Science & Technology Research Organization America; Chandra Brown, chief executive officer, MxD; and Baldwin.
Photo By: David Vergun, DOD
VIRIN: 191107-D-UB488-001C

But additive manufacturing would allow researchers and developers to test prototypes in an iterative fashion, so that an optimal design could be rapidly created, she said.

Baldwin said the U.S. is engaged in a global competition to develop these and other technologies — including artificial intelligence — and DOD's goal is to maintain its technological overmatch.

She said maintaining this overmatch is something a national imperative for all who can see the future and want to maintain economic and national security. 

DOD's Additive Manufacturing Goals

Baldwin outlined four department priorities for additive manufacturing — security, human capital, capturing new technology and adopting new technology:

DOD is working hard to ensure future technology is secure. That means protection of intellectual property and critical information, ensuring a secure supply chain and building cybersecurity into every system. In past years, that wasn't really done in a systematic fashion.
The department needs to develop and grow the workforce that will use additive manufacturing  and other advanced technologies. DOD personnel need to have the proper training and education to develop these technologies and use them in novel ways.
Worker prints on machine
3D Prototype
Prototype parts are 3D printed in the new Advanced and Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence to troubleshoot the machines at Rock Island Arsenal -- Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center, Rock Island Arsenal, Ill., May 15, 2019.
Photo By: Debralee Best, Army
VIRIN: 190515-A-FW423-070
DOD has to work with industry and academia to ensure it's up on the latest technology. That means public-private partnerships — not just with big defense industries, but also small businesses and startups. DOD's Manufacturing Technology Program is one way the department brings these partners together.
Leadership needs to see the potential that new technologies can bring to the warfighters. Also, these technologies need to be adopted throughout DOD. A March 21 memorandum from the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment directs the use of additive manufacturing in support of materiel sustainment throughout the department at all the depots.
Workers operate machine
Manufacturing Process
Army personnel observe the additive manufacturing process at the Rock Island Arsenal — Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center, Rock Island Arsenal, Ill., July 26, 2017.
Photo By: Debralee Best, Army
VIRIN: 170726-A-FW423-051