The military and aerospace (mil/aero) community is excited about the prospect of producing critical components with the aid of three-dimensional (3D) printers. Additive manufacturing is the name ascribed to the trend, one which has been employed in a variety of industry verticals and is now being adopted by mil/aero organizations. The technology and materials have matured, and are turning heads in the mil/aero community.
Additive manufacturing is likely to be a pervasive technology, taking hold throughout the mil/aero market. The proposed benefits are promising, and the relevant applications numerous. In fact, mil/aero organizations and officials are particularly interested in employing additive manufacturing in remote locales, including the farthest reaches of space.
Additive manufacturing might mean the end of astronauts stranded in space, awaiting a much-needed part or tool and organizations back on Earth scrambling to deliver the critical component or instrument to space as soon as humanly possible. Imagine if astronauts had the ability to 3D print on-demand, in little time and low cost (especially when compared to a cargo-delivery mission), whenever they encountered a problem and needed a part, tool, or other object. No need to imagine, in fact; that capability is now a reality.
Additive manufacturing and 3D printing are taking the mil/aero market by storm, and innovators on Earth are eager to deliver the capabilities to deployed soldiers, astronauts, and various other aerospace and defense entities—from schools to airlines and airports to aircraft maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) facilities.
Will additive manufacturing make the practice of keeping large parts and components inventories a thing of the past? It’s a question this mil/aero geek ponders.