Science and Technology News

Monday, June 27, 2011

Lynn Speaks on Advanced Manufacturing at Carnegie Mellon

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 25, 2011 – Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III gave the defense perspective on advanced manufacturing yesterday while attending the launch of the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

President Barack Obama created the partnership to bring together industry, universities and the federal government to invest in the emerging technologies that, according to a White House statement, will “create high-quality manufacturing jobs and enhance our global competitiveness.”

The president’s plan, which leverages existing programs and proposals, will invest more than $500 million to jumpstart this effort, bringing together leading universities and companies to invent, deploy and scale these cutting-edge technologies.

In his remarks at the event, Lynn said the history of advanced manufacturing in the Defense Department can be told through three individuals: the inventor Eli Whitney, former Lockheed Martin CEO Norman Augustine, and Regina Dugan, director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Before Whitney had success with the cotton gin, the deputy secretary said, he went to Congress in 1801 with a proposal to build muskets with interchangeable parts.

Whitney took 10 muskets to Congress, disassembled them, and threw all of the parts in a pile, Lynn said.

“And then he reassembled them, with different parts constituting each new musket,” he added, “something that had never before been done. Congress was impressed.

“Eventually, the Department of the Army issued a contract for 10,000 new muskets to be built using this method,” he continued. “It was one of the first widespread uses of standardized parts, and it contributed enormously to the advance of manufacturing in the United States.”

In 1984, Augustine published a book called "Augustine's Laws," which Lynn said is well known in defense circles.

One of the laws charted the cost increase in high-performance jets and tactical aircraft against the increase in the defense budget, Lynn said, noting the lines crossed in 2054.

“What that meant was that in 2054 we would have to spend the entire defense budget to buy one airplane,” he said. “He observed that we could work this out. The Navy would get it for three days a week, the Air Force for three days, and the Marines would have it on Sundays.”

Costs have continued to rise at roughly the rate Augustine predicted, Lynn said, noting much of the reason is the time it takes to design and approve new equipment.

“The time horizon of design and development is increasing at a similar pace,” he said, “which brings us to Regina Dugan, the current director of DARPA.”

Under Dugan’s leadership, DARPA has focused on an advanced manufacturing effort that uses integrated circuits manufacturing as a model for open design and configurable foundries, Lynn said, leading to the ability to crowd-source design.

“Altogether, we think this can significantly speed up the manufacturing timeline -- on the order of dividing it by a factor of five,” the deputy secretary said. “That is to say we could do it five times as fast, which could yield enormous cost-savings.”

Lynn said the pilot of a vehicle DARPA built in less than 90 days was on display at yesterday’s event.

“This is a pilot, not yet a complete vehicle,” he said. “But for DOD, this pilot has the ability to undo Augustine's law and yield advances in manufacturing equivalent to what Eli Whitney ushered in during the early 19th century.”

The department will continue to work as part of the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, Lynn said, to “develop this approach to manufacturing for DOD and to understand its broader implications for U.S. manufacturing.”

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