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DARPA looks to inspire next generation of defense manufacturers with four-year, $10M manufacturing outreach effort
Recently, United States President Barack Obama said, “Our success as a nation depends on strengthening America’s role as the world’s engine of discovery and innovation.”
That engine of innovation is especially important within the national defense arena and the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. Such skills are critical for careers in systems design and manufacturing, and a strong manufacturing base is essential to maintaining a well-built defense.
For MENTOR, DARPA will contract multiple organizations to deploy a variety of programmable manufacturing equipment, such as 3D printers, to high schools throughout the country and orchestrate a series of prize-based challenges to encourage competition and collaboration within high school teams as they design and build cyber-electro-mechanical systems. “The systems will be of moderate complexity,” said Paul Eremenko, DARPA program manager. “Challenges will involve the design and building of things like go-carts, mobile robots and small unmanned aircraft. And we’ll encourage collaboration during the challenges through the use of social media and social networking applications.”
Approach may compress systems delivery times by at least a factor of five
Agile and flexible design and manufacturing approaches are needed to meet the demands of rapidly changing threats to national security, declining defense budgets and the increasing complexity of systems. Current approaches to the development of defense systems and vehicles have proven inadequate for the timely delivery of much needed capability for the warfighter.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) launched a portfolio of programs aimed at dramatically compressing development timelines for complex defense systems. DARPA’s Adaptive Vehicle Make (AVM) portfolio will fundamentally alter the way systems are designed, built and verified, significantly improving the capacity to handle complexity—which has been rapidly outpacing existing 1960s-vintage approaches to managing it.
According to Paul Eremenko, DARPA program manager, “DARPA’s goal is to replicate the success of the integrated circuit industry in coping with rapidly growing product complexity by moving to higher levels of abstraction in design, introducing design automation and model-based verification and decoupling the design and build phases of the development process.”
The AVM portfolio is composed of four synergistic efforts: META, Instant Foundry Adaptive through Bits (iFAB), Fast Adaptive Next-Generation Ground Combat Vehicle (FANG) and Manufacturing Experimentation and Outreach (MENTOR), which will culminate in the development of a next generation infantry fighting vehicle. “The aggregate aim is to compress development timelines by at least 5X, shift the product value chain toward high-value-added design activities drastically democratize the innovation process and build the next generation cadre of manufacturing innovators—starting at the high school level,” said Eremenko.
Earlier this year, DARPA launched the first of the AVM efforts—META—a program to develop metrics, a representation metalanguage, design tools, and verification techniques to enable the synthesis of vehicle designs that are correct-by-construction. “META will create a toolset that enables the development of complex military vehicles and avoids the design-build-test-redesign loop that tends to lead to cost and schedule growth as we chase unanticipated interactions within the system,” said Eremenko.