Why it matters
Additive Manufacturing (AM), widely known as 3D-printing, has been identified by the European Commission as one of the key enabling technologies to improve European industrial competitiveness given its ability for rapid, delocalised and flexible manufacturing.
AM is already used in civil industry and by defence producers. However, the armed forces are still far from exploiting the full potential of this technology.
The expected growth of the AM market could generate many advantages for the European defence community: cost reduction on the production of tools and parts, design enhancements, reduced time to reach the end-user, increased technical and commercial competitiveness. At the same time, 3D-printing is set to considerably impact the maintenance of military platforms through the production of spare parts and equipment components. Since the European air, land and maritime defence systems have complex and particular underlying structures, the customization facility of AM and its on-site and on-demand characters are particularly interesting for defence. Equally beneficial are the weight reductions and the increase in resistance and durability of components which in conventional subtractive manufacturing processes were more difficult to achieve because of the processing and time limitations. Furthermore, AM technologies can be highly promising for enhancing defence capabilities such Logistic Support for Deployed Forces in remote or hostile environments.
Having AM technologies in the area of operation might significantly impact the course of CSDP missions. Time between failure and restore the availability of platforms, transportation and storage of significant quantities of spares can be decreased, with the associated costs reduction, reducing the logistic footprint of an operation.