What AM Forward Means to Me

Written by: Dave Martin

Read Time: 4 min

In May 2022, the Biden administration launched its AM (Additive Manufacturing) Forward initiative. This partnership between the government and private sector will help smaller manufacturers adopt additive manufacturing methods, purchase equipment, and train workers. Companies like Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, and Honeywell have already made commitments to help smaller companies and source parts from them.

If you are either currently designing and printing 3D parts or considering additive manufacturing, AM Forward offers a strategic and competitive advantage to your company. Let’s look at how AM and AM Forward can help you as a product development organization. 

Prototyping: At Amazon Prime Air, we often sent parts to prototype shops for a quick turnaround. A couple prototypes could cost several hundred dollars; expedited shipping could double that price. When we got our 3D printers online, I could design a part and test the results in a matter of hours. In research and development, those cost and time savings are mandatory for meeting budget and schedule.

Tooling Fixtures: Traditional subtractive manufacturing techniques like Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) machining often requires fixtures to hold the stock material. Injection molded and cast parts require a core, cavity, and inserts, which themselves must be machined via CNC. This tooling requires drawings, process plans, raw materials, and inspection. In AM, you print the necessary supports along with the part. After printing, you remove the supports and post process the parts. This is much simpler.

Lighter weight: I’ve worked in aerospace most of my career. When I worked on rockets at Blue Origin, we tracked the cost per pound for different stages of vehicles. Right now, I’m working in the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) industry. Lighter vehicles mean more payload and greater range. Parts fabricated via additive manufacturing can have more complex geometry and require fewer fasteners than a similar part created with traditional subtractive manufacturing methods.

Production Parts: Additive manufacturing provides tremendous advantages for the production of complex, expensive parts, especially in low volume. Working on rockets, production rates can be low. Geometry can be complicated. Traditional manufacturing would require numerous parts that would have to be fastened together with strict tolerances. A traditional mold casting to make those parts would itself be complex, expensive, and difficult to machine. Here’s an example of the GOx (gaseous oxygen) dome for New Glenn’s BE-4 rocket, designed in Creo Parametric.

Refurbishment: In my current role, I’m beginning to think about how my organization will perform Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) operations. In the past, when parts like turbine blades or propellers wore down, they were scrapped. This results in wasted material and costs associated with both work orders and disposal. Metal 3D printed parts can be refurbished via additive manufacturing. This is both less expensive and better for the environment.

These four areas have directly affected my work for the past decade. If companies have not investigated the potential benefits of AM, they risk surrendering a competitive advantage.

What AM Forward Does

AM Forward provides funding for the following areas:

  • 3D printing equipment for small and medium businesses
  • Training for workers to learn how to use methods and machines that are new to them
  • Reimburses the costs for large manufacturers to mentor small and medium manufacturers on advanced technology and techniques
  • Develops industry standards and certifications for parts made via additive manufacturing

In addition, companies like Raytheon and GE Aviation have set significant targets and goals for small and medium manufacturers to compete for and supply additively manufactured components.

Partnerships between government and business can advance science, technology, and manufacturing in ways that small and medium businesses otherwise could not on their own. This in turn can help everyone by reducing the supply chain issues resulting from the pandemic, inflation, and global conflicts. This represents a huge opportunity for companies and product development organizations of various sizes.

Next Steps

Are you interested in exploring AM capabilities for product development? With Creo, you can design AM parts made from both polymers and metals, including beam, formula-driven, and stochastic lattice structures. AM parts can also be analyzed in Creo’s simulation tools, using simplified or homogenized representations of lattices with a high cell count. Those parts can then be printed from Creo to your own printer or a 3D printing service bureau. With Creo, you can design, simulate, and print in a seamless, integrated platform.

Any Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) can apply to join AM Forward. If you’d like to find out more about AM Forward, visit this site. For more information about Creo’s additive manufacturing capabilities for product development, including beam lattices and equation-driven lattices, visit www.ptc.com/additive

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Tags: CAD Retail and Consumer Products Connected Devices Creo Additive Manufacturing

About the Author

Dave Martin

Dave Martin is a Creo, Windchill, and PTC Mathcad instructor and consultant. He is the author of the books “Top Down Design in Creo Parametric,” “Design Intent in Creo Parametric,” and “Configuring Creo Parametric,” all available at amazon.com. He can be reached at dmartin@creowindchill.com.

Dave currently works as the configuration manager for Elroy Air, which develops autonomous aerial vehicles for middle-mile delivery. Previous employers include Blue Origin, Amazon Prime Air, Amazon Lab126, and PTC. He holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from MIT and is a former armor officer in the United States Army Reserves.