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TechView US Army to Lead the Push to


Digital Manufacturing


Te Obama administration has chosen the US Army to launch an institute with the goal of spurring innovation in digital manufacturing, officials an- nounced recently. Te Army is enlisting its Manufacturing Technology Program (ManTech) to lead the establishment of the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute, or DMDI, said Andy Davis, ManTech program manager within the US Army Research, Development and Engineering Com- mand, or RDECOM. Greg Harris, with RDECOM’s Avia-


tion and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center at Redstone Arsenal, AL, is the DMDI Institute program manager for the Army. He is leading the effort, with participation from the Air Force, Navy and nine other federal government agencies. Te DMDI Institute issued a request


for information June 6, to solicit ideas and feedback on the direction for the institute from private industry and academia, Harris said. “How do we develop the capabili-


ties and networks necessary to provide advanced manufacturing capability and not just incrementally change the US’ capability to compete in the manufac- turing arena?” Harris asked. “We’re going to make significant change in the way in which the commercial and or- ganic industrial bases manufacture parts and systems for us.” Te Department of Defense has


provided $50 million in funding, the other federal agencies contributed $20 million, and the institute expects a com- mensurate cost match from industry. Harris said the government is scheduled


to award DMDI Institute’s cooperative agreements by the end of 2013. Davis and Harris said the institute


will further the Army’s efforts to shiſt its approach to manufacturing. Te Army is starting to provide manufac- turers with the specifications for a part in three-dimensional computer-aided design, or CAD, files instead of the traditional two-dimensional technical data packages.


The Army is starting to provide manufacturers with part specs in 3D CAD files instead


of the traditional 2D data packages. “Te Army sees this as an opportu-


nity to align a major national effort with what’s going on with engineered resilient systems,” Davis said. “We are bringing requirement, modeling and simulation in early in the design process. Build prototypes, capture that data, and run it back through your process to make sure you have something good before you start really building your system.” Because the manufacturing com-


munity works with 3D data, there are added costs when vendors must take the Army’s 2D TDP and convert it to a 3D CAD package. Te M2 .50-caliber machine gun is


an example of the difficulty the Army faced when trying to have a vendor manufacture replacements parts derived from 2D drawings, Davis said. When the Army tried to convert the


M2’s 2D drawings into digital format, it was not possible because the machine tools and manufacturing processes had changed significantly in the past 70


Dan Lafontaine


Public Affairs Specialist US Army Research, Development and Engineering Command Aberdeen, MD


years.Te Army could no longer get parts made based on the old drawings. To overcome the issue, Army


engineers leveraged the Defense-Wide Manufacturing Science and Technol- ogy Program to reverse-engineer the part based on the drawings and existing parts. CAD files could then be sent to manufacturers for production. Harris said the institute will lay the


groundwork to help the Army as it adopts digital manufacturing. One of the primary goals is to help ease the transition process as the Army tries to understand how to use these new data and models. “Tat’s the gap this institute is going


to fill,” Harris explained. “In all of the efforts we have going on, how do we utilize these different models that are coming in? How do we deal with capa- bility issues so we can utilize this data, reuse it as much as possible and not end up having to redesign parts that we already have?” Te transition to digital manufactur-


ing will ultimately save time and money for the Army as it designs, engineers and procures new systems and makes modifications to existing ones. “We’ll do virtual prototyping so that


we’re not building parts to see if they work,” Harris said. “We can do a lot of that before we ever cut a piece of metal. Tat significantly reduces the overall lead time for design and fielding of a system. It allows us to be smarter about the way we go about the realization of that system.” ✈


RDECOM is a subordinate command of the US Army Materiel Command.


Aerospace & Defense Manufacturing 2013 53


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