Author: Timothy Phillis
Company: US Army / RDECOM / ARDEC
Phone: (309) 782-4909
Additive Manufacturing (AM) or 3D Printing is a disruptive technology, which allows the Warfighter to perform expeditionary repair and mitigate down time, caused by battle damage and depleted supply. AM can be used to shorten the design to production cycle timelines, support on-demand manufacturing at the point of need, and enable new and innovative designs that are either too costly or impossible to obtain using traditional manufacturing techniques. An overall enterprise-wide view sees using AM in several areas from improving mission readiness at the tactical point-of-need, improve production, maintenance, and sustainment within the organic industrial base and support modernization efforts through advanced technology development.
Specifically focusing on the tactical point of need use case for AM, there are two direct benefits to the Warfighter. One is “increased readiness” through manufacturing and/or repairing components in the field, utilizing AM to resolve sustainment issues such as obsolescence and long lead-time and supporting a robust, scalable supply chain. The other is “enhanced Warfighter capabilities” using AM to eliminate many traditional design constraints imposed by conventional manufacturing to create new field expedient solutions.
The question becomes how do we deliver the benefits of “increased readiness” and “enhanced Warfighter capabilities” at the tactical point of need? The how is provided by two systems working together: the AM printing hardware and the 3D technical data. Connecting the Warfighter to the 3D technical data is the key to fully utilizing additive manufacturing at the point of need. Through this “digital thread” the Warfighter accesses the appropriate 3D technical data which enhances the value of the overall supply chain.
In response to this need for a robust digital thread, RDECOM – ARDEC developed RAPTOR (Repository of Additive Parts for Tactical & Operational Readiness) to provide the required technical data at the point of need. RAPTOR is a repository that provides access to digital data files for expeditionary manufacturing processes to produce battle damage assessment repair (BDAR) or emergency/temporary repair parts while supply system delivers replacement parts. The interface is easy-to-use linking the Warfighter to data via an intuitive graphic user interface. RAPTOR also links the Warfighter to engineering through a reach back process providing rapid engineering oversight for unique field applications. RAPTOR allows Warfighters multiple search options such as system type, printer or material, National Stock Number, etc.
RAPTOR provides the simple, intuitive interface to a 3D repository allowing the Warfighter to use AM at the tactical point of need to increase readiness and enhance their capabilities.