High-Tempo Operations and Arctic Climate Will Put Additive Manufacturing to the Test

  • Published
  • Air National Guard Air Force Reserve Command Test Center

Alaska has long been known as a land of extremes where personal grit is essential to survival. Guardsmen from the 176th Metals Technology shop aren’t just surviving, they are innovating and poised to test the limits of additive manufacturing in an arctic climate.

An industrial grade 3D printer manufactured by Essentium, was delivered to the 176th Wing of the Alaska Air National Guard. (AKANG) This delivery is a leap forward for Air National Guard additive manufacturing capability, and promises a significant reduction in cost and lead-time on parts produced.

“My ask to the AKANG is to be agile, innovative and ready in alignment with our mission vision and priorities. 3D printers and new technologies are critical to reduce our demand on the supply chain, transportation dependencies and single sourced solutions” said Brig. Gen. Tracy Smith, Assistant Adjutant General - Air, Alaska National Guard. 

Smith said that innovation will remain at the fore front of Alaska guard operations.

“This culture of innovation will continue in the future because the Alaska National Guard is promoting innovation as an every day way of doing business.”

The high operation tempo, strategic mission and arctic climate makes a unique partnership between the Air National Guard and Essentium. Essentium is part of the first cohort of the strategic funding increase (STRATFI) program, an initiative to bolster partnerships between the U.S. Air Force and innovators in the private-sector. This effort will assist the National Guard’s mission to maintain well-trained, well-equipped units that are available for prompt mobilization during war and provide assistance during national emergencies.

Essentium Chief Technology Officer and Co-founder, Dr. Elisa Teipel travelled to Alaska to assist in the delivery and described the partnership between the organizations. 

“Operationally like the ANG, Essentium is focused on agility and access to solutions that solve problems in a time of need. The Always Ready, Always There mentality of the National Guard is like Essentium’s motto; Speed, Strength, Scale. Working with our partners our goal is to help extend the tactical edge for the ANG and DoD in general.”

While this is a budding partnership, both sides are steadfast in developing the technology to eventually achieve useful saturation across the operating front.

“This partnership is about laying the foundations for building the digital manufacturing ecosystem of the future. It takes time and support from both parties to train and equip the human capital component of the Guard to be able to uptake not only a new technology, but a new way of thinking. Supply-chain-in-a-box is the goal, and Essentium is committed to help the ANG get there,“ said Teipel.

Arcwerx, the innovation hub for the ANG, facilitated the partnership between Essentium, the Rapid Sustainment Office, Air Force Material Command, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center and Air Force Reserve command with the goal of working toward a new strategic capability for the DoD and continues to strive to advance design thinking and leverage the the enormous strengths of the Air Reserve Component.