Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S)’s Future Capability Group (FCG) is aiming to tap the potential of 3D printing to manufacture important parts and equipment for UK Armed Forces.
FCG established its latest Center of Expertise (CoE) in summer 2022, focusing on High Value Manufacturing (HVM). According to DE&S, one of its early priorities is to respond to the ‘Additive Manufacturing (AdM) as a Service Challenge’ set by Lieutenant General Richard Wardlaw, Chief Defense Logistics and Support (CDLS) in Strategic Command. The challenge has been created to accelerate the use of AdM within Defense to improve platform availability.
“The new High Value Manufacturing CoE will play a very important role in facilitating the progression of materiel such as advanced composites and processes such as additive manufacturing, to improve current and future availability for Front-Line Commands,” said Col Dan Anders-Brown, Senior Responsible Owner for the HVM CoE at DE&S.
FCG is in the process of setting up an initial trial for a multi-supplier framework agreement to accelerate the use of such technologies within UK Defense, deliver a more agile response to the demand for parts and generate the efficiencies it promises. It also aims to help the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and industry to develop an understanding of the constraints of 3D printing, and the solutions to these constraints.
Suppliers who join the framework will be eligible to bid for tasks set by FCG, the first of which has a budget of up to £1 million split between successful bidders.
“The CDLS Additive Manufacturing as a Service Challenge seeks to collaborate with industry to understand and alleviate the blockers that are currently hindering the wider adoption of additive manufacturing within the UK Defense supply chain,” said Charlotte Robinson, Strat Com’s Support Transformation Innovation Team Leader. “We see additive manufacturing as a key tool in our arsenal to help reduce issues affecting our platform availability, such as excessive inventory lead times, part obsolescence and prohibitively low production volumes.”
Building on the success of other CoEs created by FCG such as Expeditionary Robotics and Digital Battlespace, the new one was launched at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Center in Rotherham.
The launch event was chaired by Col Anders-Brown, facilitated by Team Defense Information and attended by more than 60 people keen to collaborate from MoD, industry and academia. The attendees provided useful insight, advice and guidance on what the HVM CoE might focus on and where it might add value to UK Defense.
As well as investigating advanced materials and manufacture, agreed priorities for the CoE include tools and techniques for in-service support and the ownership, access, reuse and protection of data and information as part of the ‘digital thread’.
Col Anders-Brown added: “The launch event exceeded our expectations in terms of attendance, contribution and commitment from so many energized attendees. It provided a solid foundation on which to continue the dialogue with the HVM community at large.”