US Navy Tests 3D Printers In Move To Shore Up Supply Chain 

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by Tyler Durden
Thursday, Feb 04, 2021 - 22:20

The race is on, and the US military is preparing to shore up its complex supply chains with 3D printers. The military wants to transform how supplies are deployed in a conflict. 

The US Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) partnered with Xerox to pilot test the Xerox ElemX Liquid Metal 3D printer on its university campus, according to 3D Printing Industry

Naresh Shanker, Xerox Chief Technology Officer, said the US military supply chain is very complex, and NPS understands future manufacturing challenges as supply chains between the US and China are fracturing as trade tensions increase.

"This collaboration will aid NPS in pushing adoption of 3D printing throughout the US Navy, and will provide Xerox valuable information to help deliver supply chain flexibility and resiliency to future customers," Shanker said. 

The Collaborative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) between Xerox and NPS will one day allow the Navy to print 3D parts and equipment on demand, and on the modern battlefield. 

NPS students will experiment with the Xerox ElemX Liquid Metal 3D printer. They will learn how to design and create prototype parts on the device. 

"From the age of sail to the nuclear era, sailors have been fixing things at sea so they can complete the mission," said NPS President, Ann Rondeau. "This partnership is about the strategic ability of the navy to have sailors on ships with the capability through creativity and technology to advance their operations at sea." 

Rondeau said, "through collaboration, NPS and Xerox are helping build a Navy for the 21st century." 

Xerox's 3D printer could soon allow the Navy to fabricate military parts without worrying about vulnerabilities in its supply chains. 

"The NPS Alumni Association and Foundation-supported bringing the ElemX liquid metal printer to NPS because it will enable soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines to solve their problems where they are, when problems occur," said retired US Marine Corps Colonel and Vice President of the NPS Alumni Association and Foundation, Todd Lyons. 

The CRADA between Xerox and NPS will transform the supply chain and how the Department of Defense operationally plans for war. 

The US military has already integrated 3D printers into operations by printing missile parts and helicopter parts.

In a separate report, BofA's Francisco Blanch told clients, in a note, that for many years, America levered its economic and military might to secure global supply chains. Still, as the world becomes a more fractured place, the military has turned to new technologies to stay ahead of China.

Blanch shows the US military tremendously outspends the Chinese but that gap could be closing by the end of the decade.

Readers may recall, the Centre for Economics and Business Research warns China could overtake the US to become the world's largest economy in 2028, five years earlier than previously anticipated, after weathering the virus pandemic much better than the US. 

To sum up, the US must rapidly modernize its force or it will lose the great power competition.