BY OYAOL NGIRAIRIKL
Journal Staff

Neal Orringer, president of ASTRO America, spoke at the November Guam Industry Forum.
Photo by Oyaol Ngirairikl

The potential for a 3D printing industry in Guam is now the focus of the Applied Science and Technology Research Organization of America. 

The Guam Economic Development Authority has commissioned the business to provide a comprehensive analysis of the technology’s application in Guam.

“3D printing is a tried-and-true method for delivering a range of products to commercial markets,” said Neal Orringer, president of ASTRO America. “Whether it is aviation parts for GE Aviation jet engines or building FDA-certified medical implants. Dental aligners, hearing aids, and surgical guides are all well-established 3D printed products, but we believe there is potential to do even more on-island for this field to address spare parts shortages you mentioned.”

Orringer was responding to the Journal’s question about the possibility of making medical supplies to assist local hospitals and clinics. He also noted another market 3D printing could also support.

“Another important sector is the energy generator market, which has been pioneering the use of additive manufacturing to achieve critical decarbonization goals that are important to a sustainable future,” Orringer said.

For Guam, which also has high construction costs, 3D printing has the potential for concrete/building applications, he said.

The “Additive Manufacturing Feasibility Study,” will produce a plan assessing:

  • Feasibility of building a comprehensive manufacturing ecosystem;
  • Long-term sustainability of supporting Guam-based and regional markets;
  • Rotating cooperatives with colleges across the nation to develop Guam workforces;
  • Public-private partnership strategies for securing Department of Defense and commercial maintenance/repair; and
  • Potential for sustained defense industrial base development.

Astro hosted a workshop in Guam the week of Nov. 20, kicking off the study. The workshop brought together representatives of business, research, higher education, utility/infrastructure, and economic development communities in Guam as well as key U.S. military stakeholders to ensure appropriate input.

Orringer and his team also attended the Guam Industry Forum organized by the Society of American Military Engineers, Guam Post.

Orringer discussed how 3D printing is revolutionizing manufacturing across the defense industrial base and the potential it offers to Guam. With Industrial 3D printing, Air Force personnel are building flight-critical jet engine parts within days that otherwise take months to requisition. The Navy is exploring 3D printing to repair structural ship components and building parts “on-demand.” In Guam, a Pacific island with great military significance, these capabilities could be game-changing, overcoming logistical challenges and reducing requisition times by 90%.

“Over the last 30 to 40 years, 3D printing has grown in importance as a tool for both acquisition and sustainment professionals in the military supply chain. It has been applied for prototyping ships, automotive, and aircraft designs; building critical repair tools; and are now being applied to directly build replacement parts. These initiatives have reduced part-lead times dramatically, especially for remote locations,” Orringer told the Journal. 

He said ASTRO America is pleased to support the Department of Defense and industry partners’ efforts to “accelerate additive adoption and develop new 3D printing technology.

“For example, through our AM Forward initiative we’ve coordinated efforts by our nation’s leading companies to support small business suppliers expand 3D printing usage to build up supply chain resilience. Elsewhere, we’ve been leading research and development into large scale 3D printing, and recently jumpstarted the Army’s efforts to apply the world’s largest metal 3D printer to building huge automotive or aircraft systems,” he said.

He added that ASTRO has worked closely with the Quad Cities community, which includes Rock Island and Moline in Illinois and Davenport and Bettendorf in Iowa, to help build out the Army’s Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence at Rock Island Arsenal. ASTRO is helping to deliver and utilize the world’s largest metal 3D printer, he said, noting they also are working with the community and associated defense industry to attract other partners to utilize the printer and seek partnerships on the island.  

“All in all, ASTRO America believes we have the opportunity to build on these successes in support of Guam’s economic development goals and military readiness.”

Orringer said while in Guam, he also met with Gov. Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero, who he said was “very supportive.” It was Leon Guerrero who directed GEDA to commission Astro.

“The rise of China continues to focus U.S. military and other investments on Guam and in the broader Indo-Pacific region. I believe Guam is well positioned to diversify our economy in a way that can leverage new technologies, attract investors and build up our workforce to support capabilities that would address the challenges of a rising China,” Leon Guerrero said. “This is an exciting time. We are proud to have the ASTRO America team onboard as partners in developing this capability.”

When a part breaks down today, it can take several months if not years to requisition new spare parts. “This is a significant issue for Defense users in Guam, a key staging area for U.S. forces” Orringer said. “Understanding all of the unique complexities that exist, we believe solutions may lie on the island of Guam itself and that with AM, Guam can offer alternative opportunities to support key logistical supply lines.

“The AM blueprint would also change the island’s economic future forever,” he said. “ASTRO looks forward to delivering a comprehensive report and advancing this important effort.”

While in Guam, ASTRO America’s leadership team toured key facilities on the island and spoke with public and private stakeholders to gain additional insight. On Nov. 15 Orringer presented at the Guam Industry Forum, where he explained how 3D printing is revolutionizing manufacturing across the defense industrial base and the potential it offers to Guam.

ASTRO America’s work is currently in its first phase. ASTRO America was formed in 2018, and is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, non-partisan Research Institute and Think Tank, dedicated to advancing the public interest through manufacturing technology and policy. mbj