President Biden with AM Forward founding partner CEOs at launch event in Cincinnati, OH.
In April 2022, the Biden Administration announced AM Forward, a program designed to support smaller US-based suppliers in adopting additive manufacturing (AM). Led by ASTRO America, a non-profit that supports multiple initiatives addressing AM challenges, it shone a fresh light on AM, with President Biden suggesting ‘not enough American companies are using 3D printing,’ and advocating for its supply chain potential.
Seven companies – GE Aerospace, Honeywell, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Siemens Energy, Boeing and Northrup Grumman – initially signed up, each stating varying ambitions and commitments. But how much has AM Forward moved, well, forward?
TCT: Why did Boeing/Honeywell want to get involved in AM Forward?
BB: From supply chain to product innovation, AM offers significant promise and opportunities for Honeywell’s businesses. However, its acceptance and use, especially in the aerospace industry, has been slow. The AM Forward initiative is focused on finding ways to overcome the challenges and barriers that hold back AM from mass adoption. Honeywell has been working to overcome these same challenges, so it made sense to be involved and put our support behind it.
MO: Boeing was pleased to become involved in the Biden Administration’s initiative that seeks to develop and scale the domestic additive manufacturing ecosystem. This is very important to our additive manufacturing goals and America’s manufacturing competitiveness in the global context.
TCT: AM Forward intends to support the reshoring of manufacturing in the US and uptake in AM. In your view, what has slowed that adoption?
BB: I’ll quote Jesse Boyer of Pratt and Whitney when he says, “It’s the 3 Cs: cost, confidence, and consistency.” And this is spot on. We need AM to be less expensive, so it can compete better with traditional manufacturing. We need everyone from the users of products that AM makes to the certifying agencies that approve them to be confident in AM’s ability to deliver parts that meet requirements and safety standards. And we need consistency from the suppliers that make AM parts to the machines that are used to do the printing. If we can address all three of these, then that opens up AM to move into the mainstream.
MO: There are several reasons why the adoption of AM is slow in civil aviation, but the primary reason is lack of data. This is why the AM Forward program is important and why we are partnering to create accessible databases so engineers can design for AM.