|Interoperability of Additive Manufacturing in NATO operations |
|Applied Vehicle Technology|
Additive manufacturing AM, AM architecture, battle damage repair, in theatre level AM capabilities, interoperability, NATO supply chain, quality assurance, standardization
Additive manufacturing (AM) or 3D printing is a process of making a three-dimensional solid object of virtually any shape from a digital model. 3D printing is achieved using an additive process, where successive layers of material are laid down in different shapes. 3D printing is also considered distinct from traditional machining techniques, which mostly rely on the removal of material by methods such as cutting or drilling (subtractive processes). This approach enables new designs with different geometric characteristics, more complex shapes and/or the possibility to introduce internal (lattice) structures, which is not possible with the traditional manufacturing approaches.
The nations are in the process of digitizing and networking their vehicles and systems, and there is an on-going shift in military logistics for the troops to be more self-sustained. In-field production using AM will make this shift possible. AM is a revolutionary technology with significant implications for industrial manufacturing and the future of warfare. It has the potential to improve readiness, reduce wider obsolescence issues, decrease sustainment costs, compress the supply chain and enhance warfighting capability. Recognizing this potential, NATO members are currently investing heavily in this technology. AM is already being used by some nations and is rapidly becoming further embedded into the battlefield. However, detailed analysis and research is needed to ensure proper integration of the technology and to properly leverage its use.
The AVT Panel has recently been addressing the topic of AM as part of their PoW in the Specialists’ Meeting (RSM) AVT-258 – Additive Manufacturing for Military Hardware (Tallinn, Estonia, 28-29 April 2016), and in the Workshop (RWS) AVT-267 - Future of Manufacturing for Military Applications (19-20 April 2018, Torino, Italy). Moreover, the Specialist Team AVT-ST-006 – “Exploitation of Additive Manufacturing in NATO” has recently finished their report “Perspectives on the Use of Additive Manufacturing in NATO Operations” with main focus on NATO Joint logistics and (in-field) production capability. Finally, the Exploratory Team AVT-ET-189 – Future directions for the use of Additive Manufacturing in NATO operations, continued the work of the Specialists’ Team and their recommendations.
The overall scientific objectives of the RTG are to establish requirements and standards for AM to be implemented in the overall logistics structure of NATO operations, as well as define NATO’s role for the area of AM. This includes among others:
• Establishing/defining a (minimum) set of materials and processes for AM to be used in NATO military operations
• Establish/identify standards to be used for quality assurance and testing of parts/components produced by AM, and start the work on developing NATO standardization recommendation (STANREC/STANAG) for characterization of the materials and processes to be used for printed parts
• Establish a framework for NATO digital library for AM spare parts
• Set the requirements on cyber security and safe file transfer for AM parts in a NATO setting
• Establishing a framework for coordinating supply chains and overall logistics related to AM in NATO
When considering AM, NATO’s integrating function gives it a unique opportunity to influence and shape the exploitation of an emerging technology. The scientific topics to be covered in the RTG are:
• Coordination and, when assigned, control of theatre-level AM capabilities and assets
• Enabling theatre AM architecture through policy, resourcing and facilitation
• Standardization and the achievement of interoperability, including the ownership, leasing or generation of technical data files and electronic record management
• Equipment and infrastructure ownership within the context of NATO defence planning
• Workforce development (training, education and certification)
• Consideration of vulnerabilities exposed through adoption of the technology by NATO Nations and/or adversaries
• Development of a cyber threat assessment relating to technical data integrity and the security of AM equipment and associated firmware
• Provision and management of a digital media repository and a network of physical manufacturing equipment
In addition to the more technical work on materials and processes, there is also a need to consider system analysis aspects, such as:
• Provision of advice and subject matter expertise on AM, its employment and legal and warranty issues.
• Conduct a mapping and analysis of the role and place in the supply chain of additive manufacturing (what /when /where can additive manufacturing be utilized)
• Identify the technical limitations of additive manufacturing to include extra requirements (including quality control), risks and costs involved.
• Develop a trade-off cost-benefit-risk analysis to the use of additive manufacturing in logistics