BRUSSELS --- Additive Manufacturing (AM), widely known as 3D-printing, has been identified as one of the key enabling technologies to improve European industrial competitiveness.
Although AM technologies have been developed in the civil sector, it is considered that there is significant potential for additive manufacturing technologies to enhance defence capabilities. Among them, the most likely are mobility, sustainability, effect and protection through e.g. field repair & maintenance, reduced logistic burden and improved sustainability in warfightingand peacekeeping missions. Substantial economic benefits are also expected.
To identify and explore areas where additive manufacturing will have a wider impact, the European Defence Agency (EDA) has commissioned Fundación Prodintec and MBDA FR to conduct a project on “Additive Manufacturing Feasibility Study & Technology Demonstration”, with expected delivery in December 2017. The study targets the entire spectrum of European defence and Additive Manufacturing (AM) stakeholders, at all levels of defence and AM supply chains.
The project is composed of three work strands with specific and intertwined objectives:
--A desktop study to place AM and its potential in a defence context. The main outcome of this work strand will be the identification of opportunities for AM in the European defence sector. At the same time, it will aim to highlight factors preventing European defence forces from reaping the benefits of this breakthrough technology
--The second work strand is a technology demonstration of AM in a simulated deployment scenario. Its purpose is to demonstrate the feasibility and operational utility of deploying these technologies in support of a military operation
--Following the desktop study and the technology demonstration, the conclusions of this feasibility study, including the equipment used and typical objects and materials produced, will be presented in an exhibition. The objective is to raise the military awareness of AM technology and to exemplify how it could improve the way operations, logistic support or maintenance of platforms are conducted.
Therefore, this study has the objective of raising awareness in the defence community and of promoting a better understanding of the potential held by these technologies, thereby stimulating their implementation in defence specific areas. By doing so, not only the R&T community will be informed, but also other potential beneficiaries of the technology, linked to the EDA capabilities mentioned above. This will create a synergy between the Materials R&T community and the operational staff, helping the R&T community to understand the requirements from the operational side.
The contractor for the study has recently kicked off the consultation process through different means (questionnaires, interviews, etc.) with all competent stakeholders, such as: participant Member States MoDs, European Commission, European Space Agency (ESA), European Defence Technology and Industrial Base (EDTIB), and AM related stakeholders (Industry, SMEs and academia).