Pilot Institute Will Focus on Additive Manufacturing

The President announced on March 9, 2012, that the Administration will launch a Pilot Institute for Manufacturing Innovation.  This Pilot Institute will serve as a proof-of-concept for the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation that he has proposed.  The Pilot Institute will draw on existing resources and authorities of the Departments of Defense, Energy, and Commerce, as well as the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The Department of Defense (DOD) will soon issue a Request for Information (RFI) to initiate the process that, over the next several months, will lead to a solicitation and conclude with an award for the Pilot Institute.The RFI will seek ideas on how the Pilot Institute will promote innovation by reducing financial and technical risk to manufacturing enterprises of all sizes through shared infrastructure and collaboration.

Technology Focus Area:  Additive Manufacturing

To utilize existing authorities and advance their respective missions, the agencies participating in the Pilot Institute have identified additive manufacturing as the technology focus area for the Pilot Institute.  Additive manufacturing is the process of joining materials, usually layer upon layer, to make objects represented in three-dimensional model data.  It can encompass metals, polymers, and electronics and apply to a range of structural and functional materials as well as components for an array of defense and energy applications.

Additive manufacturing has the potential to minimize the need for tooling, compress supply chains, and reduce waste.  In addition, additive manufacturing can produce novel components and complex structures that cannot be made cost effectively using conventional casting, molding, and forging processes.

Funding

Up to $45 million in federal funding has been made available for the Pilot Institute; this amount does not include the anticipated cost share from other sources.  At least $25 million will be made available from DOD and the Department of Energy (DOE) to support equpiment and manufacturing projects.  Up to $15 million in funding from DOD and DOE will support investments in advanced manufacturing equipment.  At least $10 million budgeted for additive manufacturing projects by joint DOD Manufacturing Technology programs and DOE will leverage the institute’s capabilities. In addition, $5 million in funding from National Institute of Standards and Technology of the Department of Commerce (DOC/NIST) will support advanced manufacturing research, and $5 million from other government agencies will support workforce development and basic research in advanced manufacturing.

Another $10 million in funding from the DoD Defense Production Act Title III could potentially be available to support scaling-up production of technologies developed from the Pilot Institute in support of critical national defense needs, if warranted.  Participating agencies’ contributions may be matched by industry cost-sharing, support of state and local communities, and other sources.  The Pilot Institute is expected to demonstrate a path towards becoming financially self-sustaining within five years from initiation.

Applied and Basic Research

Applied and basic research at the Pilot Institute may be funded by the participating agencies.   This research will pursue a wide range of advanced capabilities, including:

  • Development of open architecture additive manufacturing processes that have flexibility in starting raw materials and processing conditions and that can utilize open-architecture machine- control software that can be customized for specific applications.
  • Fabrication of novel hybrid materials at relevant scale with multifunctional properties, such as tailored stiffness, electrical conductivity, and cooling passages, including the potential use of direct write and deposition processes.
  • Incorporation of in-situ metrology and process controls to measure quality and performance attributes.
  • Improved as-deposited surface finish.
  • Improved deposition rates, manufacturing throughput, and process reliability.
  • Deposition methods for improved surface finish, corrosion resistance, or wear resistance.
  • Advanced manufacturing enterprise methodologies for enabling rapid design and functional fabrication of current and future DOD platforms through integration of digital designs with reverse engineering techniques, using computational tools and mechanisms.
  • Fabrication methods with lower energy-intensity.
  • Advanced methods to rapidly and affordably qualify additive manufacturing processes.

Department of Defense Goals and Objectives for the Pilot Institute

The Pilot Institute will spearhead accelerated development of many of the aforementioned additive manufacturing capabilities through applied research budgeted in 2012.   Higher yields and throughput, as well as qualified processes for additive manufacturing, will result in insertion into both new and existing weapons systems.  The ability to rapidly prototype solid, single-piece parts that traditionally would require multiple machined components will save time and minimize tooling and material costs.  Additive manufacturing advancements will also support DOD’s sustainment posture, as these processes will have been qualified and able to be used for the small lot sizes that are typical toward the end of a platform’s life cycle.  Finally, the digital-centric approach that additive manufacturing utilizes will further DOD’s ability to work within a model-based (vice drawing-based) environment and better relate to its supplier base, which is largely model-based already.

Workforce Development and Assistance to Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises

Both workforce development and assistance to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will be important activities at the Pilot Institute.  The Pilot Institute will educate and train students and workers in advanced manufacturing skills, including hands-on training. Its role in degree and career and technical education (or certification) programs will positively impact technology transition. The Pilot Institute also will provide SMEs with access to cutting-edge capabilities and equipment.  These shared technology platforms will support SMEs’ capabilities to effectively implement new manufacturing processes.

Technology Transition to Defense, Energy, and Other Commercial Applications

In addition to carrying out research, providing training, and assisting SMEs, the Pilot Institute will contribute to the development, demonstration, and deployment of foundational technologies that address current and future operational needs of DOD and DOE, as well as other participating federal agencies.

Because of the versatility of additive manufacturing,  the need for dedicated, process-step specific tooling can be reduced substantially, which should result in significant  cost and cycle time savings.

Areas of interest include:

  • Fabrication of new components or tooling for acquisition or sustainment.
  • Depot part repair of existing components or tooling.
  • Coatings for improved surface finish and corrosion or wear resistance.
  • Service-life extension of weapon system components.
  • Potential for civilian commercial application.
  • Fabrication of energy-efficient and renewable energy products and technologies.

For more information, visit: www.manufacturing.gov

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