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May 23, 2024

Chairman King Touts Defense Benefits of 3D Printing

In Strategic Forces hearing, Senator cites cost-efficiency, flexibility of 21st century technology

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a hearing of the Senate Strategic Forces Subcommittee, Chairman Angus King made clear to Admiral William Houston, the Deputy Administrator for Office of Naval Nuclear Reactors for the National Nuclear Security Administration, his support for utilizing 3-dimensional (3D) printing within the Department of Defense in order to be more cost-efficient and flexible with maintenance. During the exchange, King highlighted the Advanced Structures and Composite Center at the University of Maine, home to the world’s largest 3D printer. U-Maine’s 3D printing, also referred to as ‘additive manufacturing’, was responsible for the Center printing two large-scale boats for the U.S. Department of Defense in 2022.

“Well, I'm glad to hear about the additive manufacturing. My belief is that there should be a 3D printer on every ship and in every hanger, and that we should be buying the intellectual property (IP) when we buy a platform. So, that we can maintain and build parts in a much, much more efficient way,” said Senator King.

“I absolutely agree. The carriers do have printers on them. Some of our submarines have actually deployed with printers, and they've actually additively manufactured some components already for that. We need to expand that,” said Admiral Houston. “And it's more about speed now than it is so much about the process you use. And we find with additive manufacturing that it takes — it's faster than some of the just pure casting, pouring molten metal into sand and then removing all that excess metal — is all that work that you have to do is taking away from actual production time that you could be using for other things. And, so, I absolutely see it the same way as you do and we just have to keep on leading the way.”

“I appreciate that and I can't resist mentioning that the University of Maine has the largest 3D printer in the world, and last year they printed a house. So, it's an amazing technology that I think is going to change everything. But it could also help us with maintenance of our of our naval and, in fact, air and armed forces assets,” replied Senator King.

A member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Senator King is recognized as an authoritative voice on national security and foreign policy issues. As the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Strategic Forces — which oversees the United States’ strategic forces and missile defenses — Senator King has been a steady voice on the need to address the growing nuclear capacity of our adversaries. He was also named  a “fiscal hero” earlier this month by a government watchdog for responsible spending.

Senator King has also been a strong advocate for the use of 3D printing. He previously supported a $2.8 million congressionally-directed spending award to UMaine for 3D print wind turbine blades, as well as the use of the 3D printer to create two logistics vessels for the U.S. Department of Defense. Last January, he toured the BioHome3D at UMaine, the world’s first 3D printed house made entirely with bio-based materials. In 2019, he also celebrated a partnership between the University of Maine (UMaine) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory to advance research in additive manufacturing and 3D printing using bio-based products.


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