Direct Digital Manufacturing, a Matter of National Security
Manufacturing is on the brink of a major transformation and direct digital manufacturing (DDM) is the precipitating factor. A timely piece from the Brookings Institution examines this assertion and the implications of the changing manufacturing landscape as it relates to the military industrial complex.
DDM is the umbrella term for a variety of manufacturing techniques and encompasses the following terms: additive, rapid, instant, and on-demand manufacturing, as well as 3D printing. At its core, DDM describes a computerized approach for turning 3D computer-aided design files into real-world parts.
The defense industry is not immune to the global economic situation, but, DDM, like other digital manufacturing tools, provides users with a competitive edge. One of the biggest advantages of DDM is the speed at which parts, weapons and other machinery can be designed, tested and fabricated. While true game-changing innovations are difficult to predict, DDM has the potential to forever alter the manufacturing process. Imagine the savings in both time and money if parts could be made in real-time, on an as-needed basis.
Unlike other major technology trends of the last century, such as the Internet, born of DARPA, the US is not currently leading the charge to develop DDM. In order for that to change, public and private interests will need to work together to establish protocols and standards, but first the decision-makers must realize the importance of this innovation, both to industry and to national security.