Layered: The Business of Additive Manufacturing. Naval Postgraduate School
Welcome to layered the business of additive manufacturing. Brought to you by Xerox. I'm Todd Grimm, a 32 year veteran in the additive manufacturing industry. The future of additive manufacturing is promising and exciting, yet many challenges lie ahead.
Our goal is to be your source for reliable information backed by data and presented by the experts. We address some of the major issues manufacturers are facing with additive manufacturing solutions and how they are approaching adoption of technology in their own workflows and industries. Through conversations with industry experts, we discuss the complexity of offerings, technology compatibility and best practices in integration, among other topics.
We're here to navigate with you these big questions as we talk about the business of additive manufacturing. In this fifth episode of Layered, we'll be taking a look at additive from a military perspective. Joining me today are Dr. Garth Hobson and Todd Lyons, who will share insights from the Naval Postgraduate School. NPS is a
Defense focused Graduate University, offering master's and doctoral degrees in fields of study core to naval unique needs the US armed forces, DOD, civilians and international partners. Garth Hobson is a professor and chair of the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department. He's also a member of the Center for Additive Manufacturing at NPS. Todd Lyons is a retired colonel from the U.S. Marine Corps and formerly the associate dean of research at NPS.
He's now vice president of the NPS Foundation, an alumni association. Welcome to Layered Garth and welcome to Layered Todd. Thanks, Todd. Great to be here. I really appreciate you being here and sharing your insights.
Gentlemen, I think when we talked before, just to get an idea where the conversation would go, we really talked all around battlefield. What does the modern battlefield look like? And we had a lot of different takes. I think it's really, really important. We start with what is the context of the modern battlefield and then roll in to what problem sets need to be addressed. And at a high level, where additive manufacturing can play a role. So Todd or Garth, I'll turn it over to you.
What does that modern battlefield look like? Yeah, great. Great question to this one. Now, I said I'll defer to you. Todd Lyons.
Yeah. Thanks, Garth. You know, as we look at the modern battlefield, I actually like to look back 15 years to when we were in Iraq and Afghanistan. And many of us that were there saw these mountains of equipment. And there was one area called Taqaddum Airfield. And you fly into that and it's just a sea of containers. And we asked the folks that were running the base what's in those containers? And they said, we have no idea.
Many of the units had ordered things and they were in the containers. The unit left. They took their gear with them. A new unit came in and they said, I don't need that stuff, I need other stuff. So they'd order it. And the lag, the latency between the ordering of the thing and the arrival of things made this system that was hugely inefficient.
And so literally millions, if not hundreds of millions dollars are left on the field. But more importantly, the readiness of the units never actually improved, even though we had this amazing throughput and uncontested supply chain and uncontested logistical framework. And so as we look forward, we say we cannot assume that we're going to have an uncontested supply chain. We're going to have an uncontested logistics system. So how do we operate in that? And so we have to do better. One is obviously better manage our supply chains.
And part of that is thinking about how do we make it both more robust and more resilient. Now, you know, we can get better connectors, we can get better visibility of the supply chain. But part of that is being able to move parts of the supply chain that were perhaps stateside or even in a foreign country actually closer to the edge of the battle area. And so you could imagine there may be some things that we want to be able to print using additive manufacturing now, actually in the expeditionary base that were set up forward in the contested area. We may want to have some on
ships that are the supply ships that will bring things to us. And again, close the distance between the unit that's in contact and the unit that's providing the support. And then, you know, again, having those at intervals, going backwards, not so that it's all forward or all in the back, but having it more robust by spreading it out. And that also means it's a more complicated decision for the adversary, because they can't take out one thing.
And no, I've gotten the supply chain, I've disrupted their supplies because we can print a part from anywhere. If we can create things across the battlefield. It's much more difficult for the adversary. And so that's really what this technology is doing, is saying we can't trust that we will have an uncontested supply chain. And the other part, for those of you that are watching what's happening in Ukraine, it's really easy to see.
It doesn't matter how good you are tactically. If you can't perform logistically, if you can't deliver supplies at the point of need, you will be irrelevant. And even worse, you may be in that 40 mile convoy waiting for an adversary to hit you. None of those are good for the home team. I want to ask for clarification. So you said spread out.
The point of origin, the manufacturing. You mean going back to the United States and all the way to the expeditionary forces? You mean more of a distributed concept of. I've got lots of small local manufacturing capabilities. So if one of those is targeted, I'm still up and operational to make. Yeah, that's exactly right.
So, again, it's distributed across our infrastructure back in the homeland in the United States. But more importantly, it's distributed across a large operational area that if you imagine the South China Sea, it could be thousands of miles in length, you know, and with, you know, just the sheer space that you're operating in. And if you're having to do all of that supply by bringing things that you were created in the United States out to the point of need, it's a very fragile system. If we've got technologies that allow us to create things in theater, again, with additive manufacturing as well as other technologies, all of a sudden now we're not dependent upon those very fragile supply chains back to the United States. Garth. Anything to add?
Yes, sir. Well, actually, I'm glad Todd finally went to the ocean. A little bit of context.
I, as an educator, I produce engineering duty officers for the Navy. And what my students tell me and we know this, is that it's impossible to predict what will break on board a ship while deployed. And it was not a good day when the ship is dead in the water in the middle of the Pacific. So what is trying to be able to, while deployed, produce spare parts or parts that are breaking out of the battlefield? But it goes beyond the battlefield. It goes to the deployment phase as well.
And that's global. So we need to be able to produce these parts on demand wherever. And I focused mainly on deployment. And and as I said, our students are highly focused on that. So this is all this is all good and all ties into what Todd said.
But I do at least give a little bit context from where I come from. Thank you. Well, you know, similar issue as in just general industry, you know, not being able to predict what breaks. So you make a million of this thinking that's going to be the spare part of need that ends up surviving indefinitely.
So you've got a million components taking up space, taking up manufacturing capacity. Meanwhile, the one thing you need is now a two, three month backlog. So it's it gives you in robustness. It also gives you adaptability or flexibility to accommodate the current situation or what we discover are the needs of. Am I correct in that summarization? Yeah. And I would actually highlight one thing that you hinted at, and that is, you know, part of it is the uncertainty of not knowing what we will actually need or want at the point of contact.
And very often, we need something other than what we had planned for, whether that was a spare part or even something that we couldn't have imagined. And I use example in Afghanistan. They had this implement that they used to sweep IEDs out of the way. And it was something that, you know, again, if you had had a 3D printer, you could have printed it pretty easily. They manufactured it out of local materials, but they couldn't have envisioned before they went to Afghanistan that they were going to need that particular thing.
But then when they saw a need for it, they were able to create it. And what additive manufacturing was going to be able to do is as we envision things that we might need, we can just create those iterate more fat, you know, iterate faster than our adversary can respond. And it's that ability to accelerate the pace of innovation. And again, in a intense environment as we're flying overseas, I should say that when I consider the battle space is actually all you know, it's the land, the sea, the air. It's the entire environment. If you think about it from, you know, the homeland all the way through to the objective area, wherever that might be. And I agree with Garth.
You know, we are horrible at predicting where the next conflict will be. So chances are we will not have a robust supply chain to every one of those locations. Any additional comments on that line of thinking, Garth? Yes. So Tom
referred to, of course, when things break, you have to re-engineer the boat. You need to have, of course, existing drawings or whatever of the of the component or models, but also highlighted whatever manufacturing is brought to the table is innovation, where we can actually produce new things that we couldn't produce previously and come up with new ideas, innovative ideas to produce more smarter widgets, put it that way. And that's that's come to the table with additive manufacturing. We see that every day with folks that are coming up with new ideas that we hadn't thought of previously.
In that context. Are you talking? Well, I don't know. You know how to ask the question. So where are these innovative ideas stemming from? Is it from the forces that are in the field, or are you talking from your students who see a need or hear a need and conceive of something? I would say everywhere to the schools goes outside the military, to the high school, to high school. Kids these days are doing amazing stuff with the manufacturing. We're kind of focusing on middle out of manufacturing for obvious reasons.
So it is mainly our students, but the ideas that are being put forward of are manifold. And it's from everybody students, researchers, colleagues, ideas that we hadn't thought about so we could do with with the manufacturing. All right. So I want to now understand where we are and where we're going in the additive manufacturing context. And now you've given me two paths. One is supporting the supply chain, ready for readiness, robustness, but also innovation.
So let's take a look back at the last couple of years. Are there any transactions, movements or developments to celebrate? And then the real question is, where does that place additive today with respect to being the solution that the armed forces want or the Navy wants? So look back to celebrate. And then where are we? And could question. Good. Interesting question.
I think the celebration is that the armed forces are embracing end the manufacturing. Are we there yet? I would say not quite. I'm aware of polymer printers being deployed all over the military, which is fine. But I'm a little saddened at the speed at which metal out of manufacturing is being is being deployed. It's being used stateside by a lot of the armed forces for a lot of the work that is going on.
But in terms of actual deployment of in this case, specifically metal and manufacturing, I think we're going at a pace which is let me say, I think the certainly the Navy is more anxious to move at a slightly faster pace. And the word flowing speed has been has been mentioned on that, I think. Well, you're going to tell me I'm not a military person. So flank speed, meaning what. I believe it means. Let's go in full throttle or pretty close to full throttle is what I would say.
I don't know, John, if you want to add to that. Yeah. And, you know, I look at it from a slightly different perspective, but as I look back several years ago, we used to have a, you know, metalworking shops. We used to have, you know, where people would fix their vehicles and in bays. And it was a place for those that are in the military and those that were on base to roll up their sleeves together and learn how to build stuff, to fix things. We lost that for a while where those repair shops and those facilities went away.
And just in the last few years, the polymer printers, the GAR talked about putting that in the hands of the Marines and sailors. It does transform because now they feel empowered to create and to do something different and to to take ownership there, not at the behest of a faceless bureaucracy and a faceless system that may or may not give them what they need, but they're actually able to do for themselves, even in those, you know, early materials. And I think the exciting part has been printers like the Lomax printer that is applying it to aluminum and being able to make cars that are usable and in a material that is useful for shipboard and those that are forward deployed. So I think that's that's part of this, which is there is a growing community across the DOD that says we have to do this. And I think what Garth is referring to, there are some that are risk averse because it's a newer technology and they're not sure how it's going to transform things.
They're not sure how the materials get certified. There's a lot and there's a friend of mine who did a lot of work on technical debt. And, you know, part of that was saying the risk of doing nothing, you're actually incurring a debt. And so when you move forward, yes, there is a risk. But the question is, is that risk of moving forward going to be greater or less than the technical debt that you're incurring over time? And I think we're at that tipping point now where not moving faster, we're accumulating technical debt at a more rapid rate than the risk of adopting the systems. And I would also highlight it's not just in the DOD, as you highlighted time, your ability to leverage what's going on in the commercial sector, best practices with our corporate partners and leveraging what they are learning about these kinds of materials.
And they actually can actually be a great point of collaboration with our commercial partners because they want the military to see that additive manufacturing is not only sufficient but probably preferable to other forms of manufacturing, at least in certain areas. So I think there is a we're at a tipping point where the technology is there, the people are there. And I would actually argue that the ones that are coming into the military, the more junior sailor, Marine, airmen, guardian, they are all eager to use these technologies. And it's actually some of the older generation that think it's magic that we have to educate and help them see what the power of it is.
Yeah. He hates you. He said it applies to the industrial space, too, and. Absolutely. You could replace the US Navy with any corporate name. And they're going through the very same thing. So.
I ask you where we are and you've already identified some challenges. You know the tipping point. Getting that momentum in the, let's say, the older guard who are a little more risk averse certification, you know, or lack of certification, creating uncertainty in what the product is capable of, will it survive? So a twofold question. Are there any other challenges that stand in our way, top of mind to getting to what the ultimate goal is? But more importantly, when do you think we'll see that ultimate goal of this in theater near the front lines, deployment and making parts as we need them. So a what are the challenges are still stand are way beyond what you've already offered. And B, how long is it going to take to get to the dream or vision of using additive as an innovation tool and as a solution to the supply chain issues? Maybe I can start with the challenges. They are manyfold
and that is that as you know. Well if we could focus on middle at a manufacturing I think is the way way forward. There are many different alloys that the military use.
And Todd mentioned aluminum. That's only one of a few because it is a lightweight metal, which it makes it very useful. When you go to the aerospace side of the house, there are all the titanium alloys, the high strength, high temperature alloys, In-Canal, Stane, steels and the like. So what you, what we need is a, a printer or printers that can produce all all those parts.
Are they available yet? Yes, they are in some form or another, but most of them tend to be how to bid based, which are very, very useful, be expensive, but they are also tend to be slightly dangerous for forward deployment. So so which brings us now to how when you talk about for deployment, what should the Navy do with deployment? I can tell you now that part of it, printers will not go on on board, Chuck, for instance. So it has to be some some form of wire feed system. And the wire feed systems are not is as mature as the part of its systems. For instance, they also
known as accurate. So there's quite a bit of development work that needs to be that needs to be done in that area before final acceptance. And then and then going down to actual individual components. There is right now within the within the DOD a very long certification process, which is also hindering progress, as is sort of alluded to.
And that needs to be rethought in my opinion, my personal opinion. I don't think I'm though everybody agrees with me on this one, but I do think we need to be a little bit more, as Todd said, less risk averse. And we need to try things out because once again, when you're stuck somewhere and you're and you cannot move or you're not mobile due to a small part that's holding you back, you will essentially use anything to get you out of that situation. And I'm sure Todd knows exactly what I'm referring to. So. So, no, there are definitely
a lot of issues that need to be resolved before we can fully deploy at a manufacturing in the in the battlespace. So if I heard you correctly, so its breadth of materials or alloys for metal additive that are available to satisfy the needs, it's eliminating the danger of a powder bed solution or similar and that danger. Can I clarify, is that mostly in explosive danger? Is that a concern? Okay. And then the length of time to certify and I want to dig into that a little bit more, but not right this moment, Garth. So with all of that, how long to check the box and all of those? In your best guess or estimate, maybe even your hopes and dreams if you want to do it that way so that we can have more additive manufacturing in theater supporting our our troops.
In our forces. I hope that it's within no more than about 12 months that we could say that we've actually put a metal printer in the field and it's actually produced something useful. I would like to say that because if we don't do within the next 12 months, I'd say we're as Garth says, we're we're carrying too much debt.
So I would say we need to do this within the next 12 months. And there are moves afoot to get printers in the in the field and go deployed. And the hope is that that will all come to fruition within the next 12 months. So hopefully by 2023, we'll be sitting here and saying we have some some finite. But I think if I could add on to that, Garth, I think there's a couple levels.
We're going to have a minimum viable product. We'll show that the capability exists and then can go to the field and that there are things that it can usefully do. I think the longer and Todd, the thing that I worry about is that if our policies are not put in place, we'll actually have the technology fully ready to go, fully mature, and we still won't have the policy umbrella within which to do this and in manufacturing. So I actually think in in contrast with what Garth was talking about, overcoming some of those technological challenges and the technical challenges of new materials, we also have to build the policy, the acquisition cycle and almost bring a devsecops mentality to materials which, you know, everybody thinks of devsecops for software development, security operations brought together so you can iterate faster. And so we almost need to think of what would Devsecops look like for additive manufacturing because we're going to be able to iterate at such a rapid rate that the current acquisition system, the current policies that govern how we acquire materials may not be useful for us in that new world, and the policy could take a long time. The challenge that I see and I almost say opportunity, but the challenge is we don't want to wait for a conflict to happen, to force us to iterate at the speed that we need to.
That would be the worst. You know, we're going to wait until we're in conflict to do all the things that we should have been doing today. So I feel and I think GA feels a sense of urgency that we have to really move as fast as we can at this moment because we are in a competitive cycle with our adversaries. And, you know, it's within our grasp. It is completely within our power to move these things forward into adoption.
But we can't wait for the conflict. Yeah. I on the industrial side, I've used the phrase many, many times that well, my logic is that people are motivated by avoiding pain more than gaining pleasure. Therefore, the decision to use additive is oftentimes reactive because as you've already indicated, your choices do nothing and fail, or try something new and have a chance of success. And the phrase I use is having your back up against the status quo wall.
And that's a bad place to be initiating new ideas, new processes and things. So I wholeheartedly agree with what you've stated because you've got to get ahead of that curve. You at least have to have the full understanding process, fundamentals and all that so you can deploy when needed instead of starting flatfooted and saying, Oh, we need it today and additive is too big of a is too multidisciplinary to be something, you can pull the trigger and tomorrow be doing what you want to do. It takes time. So. But Garth, you blew me away when you said 12 months. I was expecting five years, maybe ten years.
So congratulations on that. And I can't wait. To get a background work done in that area in the center.
Well, I'm going. To have to let you guys go right now because you got a lot of work to do because you've only got 12 months left and you've got a lot of responsibility in that. I do want to clarify. So, Todd, you mentioned Xerox. So our sponsor is Xerox, their 3D printing product.
The brand name is ElemX and the process itself is called liquid metal printing. So it's using aluminum wire, currently aluminum that's taken to a full melt and then deposited as droplets. That's just so that our audience knows where we're coming from.
But with that little description, I believe the climax was installed last December, is that correct? In December of. 21. Last.
Oh, it was 2020. Oh, okay. 2 years. So I'm totally messed up. So beyond needing aluminum, beyond not having powder bed, being a danger, is there anything else that motivated MPC to consider adding the elements to the vault? Oh, manyfold.
It kind of blew me away initially. There were a couple of things. One was the speed at which it could print prints about 2 to 3 times faster than a about a bit print. So you get a part in your hand a lot quicker. Resolution. Is we still working on
the resolution that can be improved? The other thing that is nice about the liquid metal printer is that you can print hollow parts, which part of printers could print, but that's extremely difficult if not impossible in some cases. So there was some uniqueness associated with it. Well, if I can clarify. So you're talking about having trapped powder that's hard to remove from a tight space so you can build it, but you may not be able to evacuate the loose powder.
How do you get the how do you get this powder out of the out of the voids? And then and so for the Navy to be able to print hollow parts is potentially extremely useful. And if you also think about printing a just a wrench, for instance, that is hollow inside, makes it a lot lighter to carry around because sometimes carrying just arrange around all day is is yeah. You can get more entries around let's put it that way.
The other one. And then last but not least is that the, the whole process of printing and removal of the part from the bow plate is literally a matter of seconds versus the part of a printing where we have to spend an awful lot of time carefully cutting the the part of the plate. So you, quite frankly, have a court in your hand within minutes of having finished printing it.
And that's not to say that you don't you shouldn't be doing the the proper post-processing, which you mentioned it at a manufacturing is quite multifaceted. We still have to do post-processing heat treatment of the parts. But you do that. You have to do that with card a bit as well. So no, it certainly has unique capabilities. And what I is that when Xerox came in literally with within a week, we had our first useful looking part printed by the ElemX.
And that was very impressive. To say and also say that, you know, part of this is just the speed with which Xerox has been able to respond, you know, from initial conversations to having the printer on board the campus, it was less than six months and it was about a year from the time that they had really acquired the technology. And within six months of working with it here at the Naval Postgraduate School, the commander for surface forces had said, I want this capability onboard our ships. And so that ability to iterate at a very fast pace is amazing. I would also highlight that working with a company like Xerox that has that interdisciplinary, you know, or the ability to bring multiple disciplines together in an interdisciplinary fashion is incredibly useful. You know, when they're working on, as you noted, additive manufacturing requires, you know, material science, computer science, you know, information.
It's a hugely, you know, multidisciplinary endeavor. And I think from our standpoint, the fact that we've got Palo Alto Research Center, Xerox PARC just up the road with an incredible team of scientists and researchers, the team that's in Cary, North Carolina, the team that they've got that's in Webster, New York, actually producing the machines. It it really is a global enterprise that brings enormous value to the Department of the Navy and specifically to the Naval Postgraduate School.
And I don't think we would be where we are today if we did not have that team that Xerox has brought to the table. That's fantastic. That's quite the testimony to your working relationship with them and the technology. And, you know, and for our artists, it's not to say that any other technology is bad.
It's just that what you're looking for. The platform has a lot of the box boxes ticked off for what the Navy needs for deployment. I want to go back to. So I you mentioned certification, Garth. I want to go back to that now as a barrier and how we can break it down. So when we were talking about earlier.
In preparation for this conversation, you mentioned the concept of qualifying on a part by part basis. So machine material and parts versus qualifying on a process basis is an issue. So can you elaborate on that and maybe even expound on what you think could be done that would reasonably be accepted in order to accelerate the adoption of additive. I will do so.
Recently we had some discussions with our friends in the Air Force. This is the Air Force Sustainment Center. And I think they have their approach is they would prefer to solidify the printer and the process versus individual parts. In doing that, they believe they'll be able to speed up the adoption process and are going to be honest, we hadn't thought about that ourselves until that point. And when I saw more about it, that didn't make sense to me. So I do think we need to we will be reaching out to our sister services to find out exactly what they're doing.
They, by the way, are also working very heavily with the national labs, Oakridge National Lab in particular, and NSA. So we do so now we expanding beyond DOD and going to the government level. We need to leverage that as well and we'll be doing that in the future. And personally, I think that is a way we could circumvent this problem of trying to individually certify every part, which could take a lot of time and a lot of manpower, an effort and manpower, which in some cases we don't really have the time to is just alluded to. We need to, you know, see things differently. And I think that is a
good way of thinking about it. Oh, absolutely. And that leads right to your innovation concept that you talk about, you know, in-field innovation, taking empower to solve your own problems. But if it's got to go through a part level qualification. That's exactly right.
Because because it fits in this bucket, you've just killed that opportunity. It's now back up to you and pardon the language. But top brass to make the decision that it's okay for me to do what I've known I could do for the last six months.
Is there any other conversation on innovation, barriers to innovation or innovation that additive can bring to the armed forces that you want to add on to? Because I know tied your you in the past and present, you're very much an innovation and innovation, implementation, personality and role. So any other conversations on innovation you want to get? Yeah, absolutely. And thank you for the question. You know, in the innovation leadership, you know, domain that we're operating in, part of this is recognizing that, you know, innovation is the adoption of a new practice in a community. And so it's not just the thing that we're deploying, but all of a sudden, what kinds of practices are going to be people be able to do once they have it. And when the forward units are able to say, I need something, let me do it for myself.
It actually creates a spirit of self-reliance and a culture of doing for oneself. And in the old days, it was improvise, adapt and overcome. You may have seen that, you know, in the movies, but really this is more than that. Yes. We're going to improvise. Yes, we're going to adapt.
Yes, we're going to overcome. But we're creating a culture where people think, I can do this for myself. On the software side, I can create the code that I need to solve. The problem that I have today in the additive manufacturing, I can create the parts that I need.
I can create sometimes in the larger form factors. I can create whole items for the thing that I need that I didn't know that I might need. You know, before I left home station training. And this actually relates to another variable. Every company that we talk to, it's all about how do I recruit and retain top talent in the field? And the military is no different.
If we don't create an environment where they feel empowered to do things, to take control of their own destiny, they're going to go away and do something else. So in some ways, additive manufacturing is one of those key technologies which puts power back in the hands of the units that are forward deployed. They feel like they can make a difference. And because of that, we're going to actually retain that top talent.
They're going to be able to move forward. And even more importantly, the new generation that's coming into the military today. I was at a first robotics competition a couple of weeks ago. And you see all of these kids who are printing parts. They're building the robots.
They're not waiting for someone to tell them how to do it. Or here's the requirement. They have a problem to solve and they are using the tools that they have in their hands to solve that problem. Again, leveraging software, leveraging out of manufacturing, leveraging traditional supply chain. And it's those are the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines that we're going to see in our Air Force over the next 5 to 10 years.
And if we are building in capabilities for them to leverage that advanced technology, they will not stay. So this is actually an existential issue for the D.O.D. and the military. Services in additive manufacturing is an important, although certainly only a part of that solution to retaining top talent. Well, Todd, I tell you what. Sign me up for whatever you've got going on, because you just had me celebrating a I cannot believe the word existential came into this conversation about military deployment and of additive manufacturing and that whole aspect of empowering people to take control, to influence their own outcomes.
That's exciting and surprising and exciting. One of the setbacks a certification rate, a process level, an innovation. Garth, you mentioned reverse engineering concepts such as I have an existing part and I need a replacement for it, but it was designed for machining or casting and having the need to go in and modify the design to make it suitable for additive design for additive manufacturing concepts. How often do you think that would happen and.
But does that lead lend credibility to we need to get to the process level certification because if I'm changing the design to an additive and it's a part level certification, I would guess that most parts would not be able to be put into service. Yeah, it's a it's a good question. I think initially the thinking will be we need to reverse engineer everything that's that's out there and that's that's of breaking or needs to be replaced. But there are there are cases where instead of reverse engineering, you could almost on designing it from scratch and actually make a part quicker, more rapidly. And so I think that's where the innovation comes in. So I think very quickly will be hitting towards the innovative side of things.
I'll give you an example. The most common part that breaks on the Navy is a valve wheel, a pig over the wheel. And as those get cast, as you mentioned, but they get cast symmetrically with a circular and then it has spokes that are actually raised. Right? Well, we printed our first one where we just lowered those spokes onto the flat plate and we made them it made it essentially on a on a flat plate with no support material that needed to be printed. So it's not exactly the same thing, but it would certainly work. We produced that within literally hours.
And and it was a functional, functional piece. So get back to your question. I think we'll start trying to re-engineer components, but we'll find out very soon that we want to change the design to take the advantages of added manufacturing.
And we'll so we'll be doing design along the way. And that gets back to what so I'd said earlier, this is where you really start tapping into the minds and the brains of the sailors to say, okay, how about you come up with an idea and that will keep them engaged, I think, as opposed to just tell them we'll go and reproduce this part. For me, I think that's a valid statement. The idea I'm not going to force you to add commentary to that, but I don't want to cut you off.
Do you have anything to add to that? The only thing I would add to that, and Garth hit it exactly correctly, that just trying to produce parts that were made by another form of manufacturing, but doing it and then manufacturing in this case, liquid metal printing may not be the smartest way to go. The other part that I think is 100% true are, you know, military forces that are deployed forward, they are innovating all the time. The question is whether we know about it and the question is whether it's been approved or not. And so some of that innovation happens below the radar.
And what we really are opening up the space for is for them to share. Here's how I saw my problem by creating this thing that I needed. Maybe it was a reverse engineer of a current part. Maybe it was a brand new thing that I created to solve that problem and then networking that to share that knowledge across the entire and additive manufacturing ecosystem.
Again, don't just think of it as the technology to pour the droplets on each other, but it's actually an interconnected information system where we're digitizing the supply chain. And again, in terms of transforming, some of those things are going to be even more important than just literally printing out the individual part. But I think Garth said it exactly correct. That's fantastic.
Well, gentlemen, I've taken too much of your time, Honor. Close things out with a real quick statement. So additive manufacturing is exciting and offers a lot of potential for empowerment innovation. Fixing the supply chain issues. What's the Navy's plan? Is it deploy additive manufacturing in isolation, or is it to recognize that additive, subtractive and other manufacturing processes need to go hand in hand? I read the letter and you they have recognized that we do need to have both end of end subtractive manufacturing. And so they the big Navy, will be deploying a system which essentially can print in an environment that you can subsequently relatively easily post machines apart for high precision.
So I think they're the Navy's got they're they're on the right track. We think that's the way to go. Adam Manufacturing should not be considered in isolation. It's got all the good things you spoken about, but you just you may still need to put a thread in the bot, for instance. And printing threads is not that easy right now. Not impossible, but not that easy.
Whereas post machining is a lot more rapid. And these and these printers, I believe, should be deployed in back to maybe again within the traditional machine shops that are on board, on board ship, for instance, or a Todd can tell me exactly how the how the Marines do but most likely be close to a traditional machine shop where you can do other more traditional operations. And there I think, is where the synergy lies in in terms of trying to get the whole supply chain. Yeah, it's a great point guard that I would highlight. You know, additive manufacturing, like artificial intelligence, is not a silver bullet or a panacea that's going to solve every problem that you have. But it is an incredibly powerful technology that, when put in combination with our existing framework, allows us to do things that we never could have imagined before.
So you're exactly right. It's not only additive manufacturing, it's additive manufacturing, subtractive manufacturing. It's leveraging our traditional supply chains, but creating that robustness and resiliency to go back to the beginning that is unique to additive manufacturing, especially for deployed.
Excellent. Well, gentlemen, one last question of both of you. Is there anything we haven't touched on that you want to bring up or anything that you want to come back and reinforce? Because it's a key point that you want to leave the audience with. Look for my side.
Is we have recognized at the Naval Postgraduate School as well as across the Department of Defense, that we can't do anything in isolation and that the power of America is in the power of our commercial sector. That's where most of the emerging technologies are really being created and being exploited. And so by partnering with great companies, we're going to deliver the value that the Department of the Navy and the Department of Defense need in order to be successful. And so thank you for having us on today. It was great to have this conversation and be part of the larger conversation around additive manufacturing.
Well, you don't need to thank me or Xerox response to this video because I want to thank both of you. The conversation has been fantastic. The information that you've provided has opened my eyes. I had a lot of assumptions coming into this that were absolutely not true. So, Todd Garth, thank you so much for contributing to this conversation.
Really appreciate it. And maybe in 12 months, I'll ring you up and see if we can do it again to see if you've lived. Absolutely. Thanks so much, Todd. All right. Thank you. Gentlemen, have a
wonderful day. There is an incredible hunger and thirst across the Department of Defense that we've got to do things better. The Navy has a supply chain issue out of all the services, the most complex range of books. We're all about making supply chains more resilient and flexible.
And I can't think of a supply chain that's more complex than that of the Navy. There was no hesitation for us to say we would like to partner with Xerox. We would very much like to be involved in helping you launch this. If you're talking about doing what we're doing, which is making end use parts, you need a credible printer, reliable, repeatable, high quality parts from a vendor you can trust.
That's what the 3D printer from Xerox is allowing us to do is print things at a size and scale that actually can make a difference out on the battlefield of the future or the Navy ship of the future. I think the reason we connected really well with NPS is because we share the same forward thinking and the same long term vision about how to leverage 3D printing to solve supply chain points. This kind of 3D metal printer is an innovative technology that could benefit students not only in their educational research and peers, but also build towards their ability to understand how to manufacture capability that may not even be in existence. This technology will be used.
We know we're smart enough. We know that Xerox is smart enough that we will come up with ideas that can solve these type of these type of problems. There are so open and so engaging with us, and we're exchanging information in a very mutually beneficial way. It's the start of a great relationship.