President Obama's nationwide push for innovation in manufacturing reaches across agencies from the National Science Foundation to the Department of Energy, and now it's reaching all the way into the Pentagon where $60 million is being set aside for investment in 3-D printing technologies. The DoD will fund a network of agencies, academic institutions, and companies to build on 3-D printing tech with the overarching goal of building aerospace and weapons technology faster.
Of that $60 million, half will be allotted to researchers between now and fiscal 2014, with more than half of that--some $18.8 million--being handed over in fiscal 2012 alone. That means, adjusting for the usual bureaucratic waste, there should be somewhere between many and many-many millions spent to advance 3-D printing tech this year alone under a framework that will hopefully push for the meeting of meaningful benchmarks.
Three-dimensional printing (or additive manufacturing, or rapid prototyping) is of course a fairly nascent technology that nonetheless holds great promise. While private companies like Makerbot, Stratasys, and even Hewlett-Packard have pushed the boundaries of the technology by developing less-expensive and more accessible printing systems to more people, the industry on the whole hasn't really benefitted from a huge injection of investment or a meaningful mandate from a body like the DoD--one that, when it puts its mind and money to something, can actually enable technological leaps forward.
The 3-D printing industry was already doing fine--some analysts expect it to grow to $3.1 billion by 2016--but a little help from Uncle Sam can't hurt. If you or your academic institution/non-profit organization thinks it can add some expertise to the pilot program, the Pentagon is taking proposals until June 14.
Oh yeah, this is the future for so many things.
The major thing I see is aircraft and space ship hulls being designed in one solid piece almost completely eliminating metal fatigue and reducing manufacturing cost.
This could be a great business opportunity! 3D Printing in Space! Launch 3D Printing station into orbit, get raw materials from asteroid mining robots, print interplanetary spacecraft.
Jellybelly: making something out of a single piece does not by itself reduce metal fatigue. Metal fatigue occurs when metal is repeatably bent beyond its limit. Which can happen with a single piece part as easily as a 10-piece part.
Yeah.. this is the future of manufacturing. especially in space. Imagine sending a bunch of robots which can autonomously mine an asteroids, moons or planet. Using 3d printers to replicate themselves and build facilities.
Or space shipyard equipped with 3d printers to build starships.
Imagine the possibilities.
Does anybody else feel a hint of something terminator-esque going on here? With printing machines getting smarter and more capable, self sustaining internet around the world, and i bet darpa had some sort of active AI that is super classified. Skynet here we come, lol.
Hey I'm all for innovation, but wouldn't those millions of dollars be better spent on fixing our country first? Feeding America, creating more jobs...etc etc.
the pentagon just wants to use it to make more weapons. and get them faster. that is all the pentagon cares about. the good of the people is last on there list.
"religion is like a prison for the seekers of wisdom"
echofire, this does create new jobs. Right now we buy our goods from whoever builds them the cheapest. With this technology, that person may live a few houses down our own block.
The only way to avoid sending our jobs to other countries is to produce and buy locally. This is a major step in that direction.
Even better yet, they could be better spent by the taxpayers there were extorted from in the first place. I am a very enthusiastic supporter of 3d printing technology, but not by the people who brought us Solyndra. Let the market work. Leave the money in the hands of the smarter people who created it in the first place. They make much better spending decisions.