2023 - SPECIAL REPORT - NOVEL MATERIALS AND ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING

Sven CLEMENT (Luxembourg)

07 October 2023

Novel Materials are essential for the progress of science and technology, and their continued research and development is vital to meeting current and future challenges facing NATO nations. Additive Manufacturing (3D printing) facilitates more rapid integration of new technologies and the incorporation of new, smarter materials into existing products. Investing in these technologies therefore constitutes a necessary part of strengthening Allies’ resilience to future economic and security shocks.

This report explains why they are relevant for economic competitiveness and national security. The Rapporteur argues that the benefits of Novel Materials and Additive Manufacturing are numerous and wide-ranging, and that the opportunities offered by both technologies are particularly relevant in the context of the changing global security environment. For example, Additive Manufacturing promises to combine the affordability of mass or industrial-scale production with the customisation options of one-off production. Technological leaps in other areas, such as in artificial intelligence, will allow for faster, more efficient, and more affordable production methods. In addition, the potential for Novel Materials and Additive Manufacturing to transform the quality and availability of essential equipment for armed forces is significant. The benefits of incorporating Novel Materials into military planning and procurement are substantial and numerous. For example, they promise that future defence systems will be lighter, stronger, and more powerful and more energy-efficient than those currently used by militaries.

One of the main drivers for the advancement of novel materials and additive manufacturing within the Alliance is the Science and Technology Organization (STO), which plays a pivotal role in promoting research on these disruptive technologies. Allied collaboration through the STO not only limits duplication of effort, but also enables Allies and partner countries to focus their efforts on developing technologies that will be critical to future military capabilities.

However, the implementation of Novel Materials and Additive Manufacturing into defence faces a number of hurdles and will require time, testing and investment. While technological progress in Novel Materials and Additive Manufacturing is primarily driven by the private sector and research institutes, national governments play a key role in promoting more widespread use of these technologies, in particular regarding defence procurement. The report concludes by emphasising that Allies should evaluate if and how cooperation in the areas of Novel Materials and Additive Manufacturing can further be developed.
 


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