During the inaugural AM Investment Strategies summit, which was held virtually this September, I was fortunate enough to speak on a panel of industry leaders about trends in additive manufacturing and how they may be shaping (or shaped by) public and private investment. During the discussion, a natural running theme emerged as a universal truth in the current state and the future of additive manufacturing (AM) – a deeper focus on solutions, and therefore applications, has emerged the last two years in the industry in an effort to further adoption. This trend is being empowered by the decade-long efforts to continue developing the hardware platforms in the industry to be viable digital tools for processing more and more advanced materials, and also by efforts to connect workflows through software tools and reduce the need for process-specific expertise just to manufacture parts.
With the new playbook for AM’s development squarely set on developing real-world applications that bring value and can stand on their own from an economic or return-on-investment standpoint, today I want to shed some light on an area where this trend is taking off in earnest—but where almost nobody seems to realize. This area could be referred to as the ‘defense’ industry, but to be more specific, it is in the market for military ground equipment and small arms accessories and parts, as well as their civilian market equivalents.