Jun 24, 2011 (01:06 PM EDT)
DARPA To Invest $1 Billion In Defense Manufacturing

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Slideshow: Next Generation Defense Technologies
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The Department of Defense (DOD) research arm will invest $1 billion over the next five years in defense manufacturing innovation to support a larger strategy by the Obama administration to use technology such as robotics and nanotechnology to transform American manufacturing process.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA's) own experimentation to streamline and improve the manufacturing process was highlighted during an event Friday at Carnegie Mellon University's National Robotics Engineering Center, where President Obama unveiled the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership strategy. The plan allocates $500 million to leverage high-tech resources to create jobs and improve the United States' global position in manufacturing.

DARPA used crowdsourcing and a new approach to manufacturing that reduced the process by a factor of five to develop the Experimental Crowd-derived Combat Support Vehicle (XC2V), which Obama cited as an example of how collaboration and innovation can improve and create cost efficiency in the manufacturing process.

A company called Local Motors based in Arizona designed XC2V in a month, choosing the best out of 162 designs that were submitted to DARPA through a crowdsourcing endeavor that solicited ideas for the vehicle. The vehicle took 14 weeks to build.

This accelerated manufacturing process could not only save taxpayer dollars, "but it also could get products out to theater faster, which could save lives more quickly, and could then be used to transfer into the private sector more rapidly, which means we could get better products and services that we can sell and export around the world," Obama said in his remarks, a transcript of which is available online.

A series of programs in DARPA's Adaptive Vehicle Make (AVM) portfolio that experimented with different aspects of the development and manufacturing process led to the development of the XC2V, including Instant Foundry Adaptive through Bits (iFAB) and Fast Adaptive Next-Generation Ground Combat Vehicle (FANG).

DARPA currently is seeking ideas for an aspect of its AVM portfolio called Component, Context and Manufacturing Model Library, and has posted a solicitation for the project on FedBizOpps.gov.

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