Pentagon Budgets $60 Million for 3D Printing Programs

By Norman Chan

The plan is to develop research and educational programs over the next three years.

The CNC revolution is about to get some government attention in the form of Pentagon funding. Over the next two years, the defense agency proposes to launch research and educational programs exploring the benefits of additive manufacturing, or commercial 3D printing. The $60 million budget for this program would come from the White House's $1 billion initiative to increase innovation in domestic manufacturing. According to Nextgov:

Defense expects to fund $30 million from fiscal 2012 through 2014. The bulk of the funding -- $18.8 million -- is expected to be forked over in fiscal 2012. The 3-D printing initiative will offer a proof of concept on how to build a network of 14 institutes to spur ideas on improving domestic manufacturing, as part of a $1 billion White House initiative called the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation. The program will be managed by various federal agencies, including Defense, the Energy Department, and the National Science Foundation.

The government has already begun soliciting proposals from nonprofit and public institutions to set up the pilot program, with applications due June 14th. The goal is to find an institute that can take the seed funding to create a financially sustainable 3D printing enterprise in five years.

Government interest in 3D printing should come to no surprise--it's a proven technology used for rapid prototyping consumer products. We previously reported on 3D printing and electronics companies collaborating to create complex models suitable for UAV design. And while the US government is just dipping its feet into 3D printing research, it's easy to see 3D printing becoming a part of mainstream consumer culture. We all want replicators in our homes one day, though we're not likely going to write and sing songs about them.