The Department of Defense (DoD) requires a mechanism for shaping and developing the domestic design and manufacturing industrial base in support of national security needs. The Manufacturing Technology (ManTech) Program1 was established in 1956 to advance the maturity of manufacturing processes in order to bridge the gap from research and development to full-scale production and aid in the economical and timely acquisition of weapon systems and components. New emerging technologies hold strategic promise for the DoD, but fragmented and frail ecosystems are at risk of collapse due to infrastructure and workforce complexities. An ecosystem established for DoD requirements only is insufficient to establish a robust and sustainable ecosystem. Instead, advanced manufacturing ecosystems must be built on common commercial and defense manufacturing and design challenges for shared risks and shared benefits.
The DoD Manufacturing Innovation Institutes, a key investment strategy for the DoD and ManTech program, are designed to overcome many of these challenges by advancing manufacturing innovation for specific, focused technology area manufacturing ecosystems. The DoD has established six institutes and has two more planned for Fiscal Year 2017. The five institutes, America Makes, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute; the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII); Lightweight Innovations For Tomorrow (LIFT),at the time called the Lightweight and Modern Metals Manufacturing Innovation Institute; the American Institute for Manufacturing integrated Photonics – AIM Photonics; and NextFlex | America’s Flexible Hybrid Electronics Manufacturing Institute, and AFFOA – Advanced Functional Fabrics of America. The DoD plans to award a cooperative agreement for Revolutionary Fibers and Textiles in Fiscal Year 2016.