Pentagon employees got a chance to view some of the projects that will speed up innovation and invention in the department at a DOD Manufacturing Technology Program exhibition yesterday.
"The ManTech Program supports all the manufacturing technologies and processes that we need to scale up technologies that we invest in and create, and to get them to actual production," said Tracy Frost, the director of the program. "That's the link to getting technology from our labs and inventions out to the warfighter."
The mission of the program is to reduce the acquisition and supportability costs of defense weapon systems and reduce manufacturing and repair cycle times across the life cycles of such systems, DOD officials said.
The technology on display included a 3D-printed scramjet, fabric devised from a protein found in a squid's tentacles, and a porcine decellularized heart. Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Heidi Shyu, who oversees the ManTech program, toured and interacted with the exhibits.
The program looks to bridge the so-called "valley of death" between an invention and the process needed to manufacture it as a military capability. The Pentagon event featured military service investment programs and projects from the Manufacturing Innovation Institutes. "The MIIs are public-private partnerships that support technology domain spaces," she said. "They work in things like additive manufacturing and photonics."
The network draws together public, private and academic players so all are moving in the same direction. "If we're all moving together with less duplication, we can move faster, all for the benefit of the United States military," Frost said.
The efforts of the military are focused more on direct needs for specific military platforms, she said. These include quick-turn issues that often have relevance with other services.
The DOD office brings the services together to "find one solution that they can all buy, saving us money and time, or look for nascent technologies that are just budding that the services will be interested in," Frost said. "We can help 'de-risk' that technology so that the services can pick it up and develop it for their applications."
Carrie Davis is the government program manager for the LIFT MII based in Detroit. LIFT is a public-private partnership involving DOD, industry and academia with a focus on materials science manufacturing processes. It's part of a national network of nine DOD MIIs.
Davis said LIFT developed an anti-lock braking system and an electronic stability control system for retrofitting into Michigan National Guard Humvees to reduce fatal rollovers and improve the stopping distance. Successful demonstration of the systems led to an $89M Army contract to supply ABS/ESC retrofit kits and a 2018 mandate to include the systems on all new Humvees, she added.