“Shipping delays are back on,” according to recent reports. This proclamation was made the same day leaders of iconic U.S. companies joined President Biden in Cincinnati, Ohio to launch a new initiative to transform – and insulate – the U.S. supply chain by making small- and medium-sized U.S. businesses more competitive. A key component to this new plan: broader adoption of additive manufacturing, or 3D printing. It seems the Biden-Harris Administration is doubling down on innovative technologies like 3D printing as part of its plan. It’s a national strategy I think is going to pay off.
The COVID pandemic highlighted the importance of a robust manufacturing base in the aerospace, energy, and defense sectors as well as resilient supply chains. These things are critical to our economic strength and national security. Over the last 25 years, however, we’ve lost 5 million manufacturing jobs and tens of thousands of factories throughout the country have closed, diminishing the capacity and capability of the U.S. manufacturing and defense industrial base.
Earlier this year, President Biden directed a whole-of-government approach to assessing vulnerabilities like this, including ordering a 100-day supply chain review. The final report was released in June of 2021, and among many policy priorities, highlighted the need for expanded use of innovative technologies like additive manufacturing (AM).
AM is one of the advanced technologies powering change in manufacturing. Additive technologies can reduce part lead times by as much as 90%, slash materials cost by 90%, and cut energy use in half as compared to forging, casting, and other legacy processes. Businesses use this capability to reduce the number of parts required for an application, to make spare parts on demand, and design high-performing components in various industries, with a significant benefit seen in critical economic sectors like aerospace and defense.
With fresh kinks in the global supply chain issue, I’m encouraged the Administration recognizes the full potential and is creating more opportunities to adopt AM, which has tended to be out of reach for small and large manufacturers due to the high equipment start-up costs.
The new AM Forward program helps to address this by creating a public-private partnership that provides affordable financing to small and medium sized manufacturers to support installing AM equipment. This has the potential to reduce LVHM part lead-times by 90 percent with novel design approaches and cost-saving models. Toward these aims, large corporations like GE Aviation, Honeywell, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon Technologies, and Siemens Energy are making clear commitments to increasing demand for additively produced (3D printed) parts, as well as providing training opportunities to suppliers’ workers, offering detailed technical assistance, and engaging in standards development. The commitment of these iconic American companies is a strong indication that AM is a mainstream component of America’s manufacturing supply chain.
Broader adoption of innovative technologies like additive means lower costs for families, improved competitiveness of America’s small- and medium-sized manufacturers, more high-paying manufacturing jobs, and greater supply chain resilience.