Blog Menu

AM at NATO?

April 8, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 16:26

Note: Bob Appleton, president of RW Appleton & Company, Inc., authored the following.

Obstacles to adopting additive manufacturing (AM) in any large organization are well known. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) faces additional challenges due to the diversity of its 29-nation membership. Each has its own policies and procedures and is at a different stage of adoption.

In 2016, the NATO Allied Command Transformation unit formed an AM Community of Interest (COI) consisting of leading voices and technical experts across the alliance. Its purpose is to coordinate AM efforts among member nations and share progress. The COI is exploring potential AM use cases and examining relevant standards. It is also reviewing necessary data security measures and interoperability within NATO’s environment.

The COI has swiftly addressed NATO’s issues. First, COI members participated in the U.S. Department of Defense-sponsored AM Business Process Wargame, which explored complex business practices necessary for AM use in the military. The COI also published a report detailing current standards applicable to AM.

The COI and its members maintain high-tempo participation in AM events. Drawing on experience from the Norwegian Ministry of Defense (MOD) and the U.S. Marine Corps, the COI is exploring expeditionary logistics applications. The Marine Corps demonstrated its “ExFab,” a self-contained transportable 3D printing facility, to NATO at its meeting in October 2017. This year, the Norwegian MOD will demonstrate a similar capability.

COI members will participate in NATO meetings in Germany, Italy, and the U.S., as well as NATO exercises in Norway and Poland. A study will include member nation AM activities and a roadmap proposing the way forward for AM at NATO. The COI will study blockchain as a potential security enhancement, as well as lessons from the experiences of Estonia, the most connected nation in the world. This month, the COI will be represented at RAPID + TCT 2018 in Fort Worth, Texas.