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The Future of 3D Printing Technology, Additive and Advanced Manufacturing

Featured Image:  The Manufacturing USA Innovation Institute Network (Image Source: The White House)



Earlier this week, the first White House Leadership Summit of the Manufacturing USA Innovation Institute Network was held at the White House  – along with a major policy speech earlier this month by the National Economic Council (NEC) Director Brian Deese on “Executing a Modern American Industrial Strategy” and the release by the Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Manufacturing USA Highlights Report 2022.

In our Opportunities for Advantage: Reshoring Manufacturing and Shortening Supply Chains analysis, we offered promising metrics garnered from recent successful manufacturing reshoring efforts in the United States. Unfortunately, the political and business press narrative (more often than not) includes the faulty conceit that reshoring manufacturing equals vast job creation. At OODA Loop, manufacturing returning to the U.S. is synonymous with the strategic growth of exponential disruptions like 3-D printing technology (additive manufacturing) and advanced manufacturing.

Stoically, pragmatically – as is our way here at OODA Loop – we operate on the realistic assessment that a new plant in the US will always include disruptive automation – with nowhere near the job creation that factories used to create as the apex of the U.S. manufacturing base and unionism began its descent (in the late 1970s) into a decades-long nadir in the U.S.  On a plant-by-plant basis, additive and advanced manufacturing will create many high-skilled, high-wage jobs, but it is not a cure-all for the decades of job losses induced by decades of offshoring and outsourcing of the U.S. manufacturing and industrial base.

This is only one of many research and analysis questions we have been exploring in 2022 – questions that were top of mind when evaluating the tactical specifics and strategic vision of the White House Manufacturing USA Innovation Institute Network Summit and Director Deese’s Industrial Strategy remarks, respectively – as well as the strategic implications of the NIST report.

What Next?  OODA Loop Research on The Future of 3D Printing Technology, Additive and Advanced Manufacturing

We will be providing an analysis of the Summit, Deese’s remarks, and the NIST report in the weeks ahead. To start, the following are the ongoing OODA Loop research questions for your consideration on “The Future of 3D Printing Technology, Additive, and Advanced Manufacturing”:  

Operations Research and Innovation

  • Adopting a dual-use vendor and contracting system:  How prepared is our defense industrial base to attract sufficient private sector investment?  China has a solution for this:  their private sector is their government, but the other solution is they do dual use.  When they are not doing defense, they’re building cruise ships. We haven’t adopted a strategy that makes it attractive enough for our private sector to invest in defense because we believe that defense should not be dual-use. That is a fundamental weakness of our current system versus China, which is we don’t have the ability to attract our private sector into sustained investments and defense.
  • Will digital transformation now include supply chain and manufacturing concerns as a priority?   What is your actual operating model?  What is your core competency? Do you need to do this? Are you trying to do a replication model or unification model or coordination model? This stuff is not new, but it has now been reframed in the context of digital transformation efforts. So in some ways, it might be a good time to inject these realizations about supply chains and manufacturing reshoring into these digital transformation efforts.
  • Is this a classic technology scalability problem?  Is there a cliff or “valley of death” when you are trying to scale technology beyond a certain point?  When the investment of resources is so dramatically different, is it cost-prohibitive for certain market entrants?
  • In the Nirvana of real-time visibility, there are a lot of structural and human incentives:  There is a powerful corporate and institutional resistance  – and the resistance in part comes from all these disruptions – whether it is the pandemic, the war in Ukraine – and the notion that they are temporary – that this is not a permanent change or representative of parallel ongoing crises, long term uncertainty and multiple threat vectors on which to evaluate our long term risk strategy.  It is hard to get organizations to focus on something that is going to be disruptive and accept it as a permanent change.  And they will come through on the other side and return to doing business as usual.  This leads to the research question:  is reshoring going to take place because major organizations decide to reshore?  Or is it going to take place in a more insidious guerrilla warfare fashion – in which more nimble smaller organizations will get to it sooner?
  • US Manufacturing Base Public/Private Partnership and USG Career Track Opportunities:  Reshoring will really require a public-private partnership between the United States government and our manufacturing base.  We will need to clean up procurement in the United States, on the government side, to buy American.  Unfortunately, this is an extremely nuanced process. There is no career track in the government for very technical people to stay in the government.  Very technical people get frustrated and leave. If we fix this issue of creating a career path for technical people who want to serve America and stay in the government, then you have someone that can partner with private businesses because the private business will respect the technical acumen of the government workforce.

Business Model Generation/Value Proposition Design

  • Supply Chain Innovation will be as much about Business Model Innovation as Technology Itself:  It is not just the technology, but also the business models. There are companies like Rapid Robotics where you can basically hire a robot as a factory worker. It is a subscription-based model which is quite different from what ABB and other companies are doing. But if you want to rapidly build up capacity, this is interesting and portends the type of business model innovation we will start seeing – which is independent of a traditional working definition of a linear ‘supply chain’ and an innovation that maps more to that of a supply network or value creation network.
  • Modular, dual-use defense technologies can also be used to address food security, water security, and climate change:    Do we insist on modularity?  Do we break away from a single vendor versus modular and reusable?  The goal of what DoD should be doing is the idea of modernizing in place versus tossing something away for the next generation.  In trying to find something to attract the private sector to have sustained investments in the defense industry, what would be the first step in dual-use?  “Moonshots” in food security, water security, and climate change have been discussed as initial areas of OODA Loop inquiry on this research topic.
  • Do we have the architecture and network capabilities for modular reusability?  The idea that you can modernize in place with different components that come from different vendors – that of course requires foresight:  do you have the architecture and network capabilities for reusability for hardware or software?
  • There is a lack of conscious thought about operational models:  If you pick a big company and ask them ‘what is the operational model of the company?’ – more than 50% of the Fortune 100 would have a hard time answering that in a succinct way. And so the problem is:  until you have an operational model, and you can identify what your core capabilities are for modularizing, those become incredibly prohibitive. We have this strategic deficit that we have known about in cybersecurity for a long time.  Some of it goes back to basic management theory  – and the DoD dysfunction about dual use in some ways is directly connected to that. Because if you have a clearer understanding of what your capabilities are, then you should be able to create those distinctions to figure out which ones might not be or might be “pets versus cattle.”
  • What Role will 3D Printing (Additive Manufacturing) play?    Doesn’t 3D printing (adaptive manufacturing) preclude a lot of these issues and/or shorten the supply chain considerably, i.e. for consumer goods?  It hasn’t quite hit the vertical part of the adoption curve, but it will at some point.  When it does, will it transform what we understand “manufacturing” to be?    Another member mentioned that “at the industrial scale, there is a company called Hadrian that builds a factory that builds factories – they are doing this in the aerospace industry and for companies like SpaceX and others, but they’re aiming to do it for like the F16 program, which is now such an old program they are having a hard time getting spare parts because most of the supply chain for even these advanced aeronautics systems are smaller companies where the owners are now in their sixties and are just kind of leaving the market. And it’s hard to get these supplies. So Hadrian is building automation to create these things, not quite a printer in everybody’s garage, it’s industrial strength stuff, but that is going to be part of the answer, at least for aerospace. Now we need that same kind of approach for all the other industries.
    Also see:  Speculative Design: Relativity Space’s Fully Reusable, 3D Printed Rocket.
  • The ecosystem for 3D printing maintenance and support does not exist yet:  There is a lot of maintenance required in 3D Printing and the infrastructure to support the additive manufacturing ecosystem does not exist yet, especially in that last mile.  When we see an adoption that is high enough, then we will start to see that infrastructure emerge as a valid business opportunity.  Also, 3D Printer repair in the industrial domain differs from the individual consumer space.
  • Russian supply chain issues In Ukraine are a cautionary tale:   What we are seeing in Russia with their supply chain  – maintaining it and replacing parts as they wear out  – is a bit of a cautionary tale.  From the analysis that we have seen, it’s not the mechanical parts that are the most difficult to replace, it is the electronics. And those are the ones that have the deepest supply chain. We are a lot further away from having the ability to print your own chips in a garage than we are from being able to print the mechanical components.  Even if rare earth minerals are not that rare, processing them is hard and expensive and takes time, and requires manufacturing plants that are a key part of the supply chain. We cannot just instantly fix that.


  • Software Security Should be a Priority:  Many of the vulnerabilities in our hardware systems are from the software side. How can we transition from an open-source code base to a trusted source code base rapidly and in a manner that aligns with our national security goals?  Should we “air gap” additive and advanced manufacturing software systems (through restrictions, regulations, and laws) to insure that these exponential technologies are never exposed to the code vulnerabilities of legacy hardware and software systems?
  • Apply Information Security Models to Supply Chain Security:  Can we apply the burstable capacity concept as we have in cloud computingIs there a concept of burstable manufacturing capacity that could be shared and available so that when individual centers are disrupted, for whatever reason, you can quickly spin up a “warm site” for physical production in the same way that we have warm sites for servers and software?
  • Improve Cybersecurity in Massive Reshoring Efforts:  To bring it back to the practitioner who needs to help companies that want to reshore manufacturing:  these companies are going need help with strategy, vision guidance, but also execution. And that includes data analytics, understanding their data, using good data in their plans  – and cybersecurity.  OODA Loop is going to have an opportunity to contribute thought leadership on how best to ensure and improve cybersecurity in massive reshoring efforts and in the areas of 3-D technology, additive, and advanced manufacturing.

International Coalition-wide Norms and Networks

  • Multinational Industrial Network with Key Select Allies:   How do we need to think about both reshoring and how we also create a multinational industrial base with key allies?  How do we involve the Five I’s, but also Germany and Japan (and possibly India?)in this reshoring effort as well  – for what used to be called the industrial base and what now needs to be an industrial network?
  • Building Open Societies will provide Manufacturing Opportunities:  The more open societies have success, the more this is a competitive advantage for this future industrial network.
  • A Billion People between the Rio Grande River and Tierra Del Fuego:  Why aren’t we thinking about how to start working with countries in our own hemisphere, creating unprecedented opportunities to date?  If done correctly, it could be structured to help solve our immigration problem. As one network member noted:  “If people had a chance to have a good career, a good future, good economic prospects in their own town, region, state and country, whatever. There has been a lot of benign neglect, but maybe there are a lot of smart people in that area that have just been underserved and undereducated.”
  • A Drawback from China:  With regards to China now, over multiple administrations of both parties, we are seeing a drawback from China for a lot of reasons – strategic and national security issues, etc. In the nineties we made decisions collectively to outsource pollution and dangerous jobs to China – that was all conscious.  but if there is a strategic imperative and a market force and a market-clearing price, then that will become more competitive. There are several issues that we may be seeing at an inflection point – there seem to be some forces that are working right now that are changing attitudes, and the corporations are going to have to start adjusting.  See:  The 20th CPC National Congress Anoints 21st Century Chinese Emperor. But Does He Have No Clothes?
  • Dept. of Commerce and State Department Regional Innovation Hubs:  Hubs will remove any obstacles to doing business in one of their regional innovation hubs.   The hub ecosystem is not sufficient: there is more that needs to be done.

Further Resources


It should go without saying that tracking threats are critical to inform your actions. This includes reading our OODA Daily Pulse, which will give you insights into the nature of the threat and risks to business operations.

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Daniel Pereira

Daniel Pereira

Daniel Pereira is research director at OODA. He is a foresight strategist, creative technologist, and an information communication technology (ICT) and digital media researcher with 20+ years of experience directing public/private partnerships and strategic innovation initiatives.