Emerging Technologies in Virginia’s Defense Manufacturing Sector

Virginia’s defense sector is on the brink of a monumental shift, thanks to some groundbreaking advancements in manufacturing technologies. With a recent $3 million boost from the Department of Defense, Virginia Tech has risen to become a global leader in additive manufacturing and developing safer, smarter energetic materials designed to redefine the industry. Here’s a closer look at what’s promising to be a game-changer for Virginia and beyond this year.

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In this blog, we’re breaking down:

  • Virginia Tech’s energetics breakthrough with 3D printing
  • The rise of AI and its impact on defense
  • How Virginia is strengthening the defense sector with cybersecurity solutions
Defense Airliner under maintenance. Checking mechanical systems for flight operations

A New Era of Energetics with 3D Printing at Virginia Tech

Gone are the days of traditional manufacturing methods for military munitions. Virginia Tech’s latest project innovates how energetic materials like propellants and explosives are created.

The Blacksburg campus houses five advanced additive manufacturing (AM) machines, enabling metal manufacturing techniques like binder jetting and laser powder bed fusion. The equipment provides student researchers with hands-on experience and supports the development of innovative solutions in fields ranging from aerospace engineering to medical applications.

By harnessing 3D printing, researchers are rapidly producing parts and prototypes, and a number of research groups are making ground-breaking discoveries in this area. This also opens up the possibility of on-site manufacturing, allowing for materials that next-generation engineers can customize on the fly.

According to Kevin T. Crofton, Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering and primary investigator on the project, in a February article by Virginia Tech, “Virginia Tech is in a unique position to support the Department of Defense in emerging energetic material technology as well as developing the next generation workforce,” he said.

“By assembling a team of experts in propulsion, energetics, and novel materials from across the university, we have the opportunity to both advance this new technology and make a positive impact on production processes right here in the New River Valley.” This project is a pinnacle of defense product manufacturing, integrating Industry 4.0 consulting services to revolutionize the industry.

Two Professional Heavy Industry Engineers Wearing Hard Hats at Factory. Discussing Industrial Machine Facility

The Impact of AI on Defense Strategies

Congressional 2022 research reports that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is transforming how the military operates by making it smarter and more efficient. Essentially, AI allows computers to do things that would typically require a person, such as examining video from drones or planning the best ways to move supplies. This tech is super focused, dealing mainly with specific jobs like understanding intelligence reports, watching areas of interest, and controlling drones without a pilot.

While AI promises to bring big changes, like making decisions faster and more accurately, there are some tricky issues to consider. These include the potential for AI to make mistakes in recognizing targets or ethical dilemmas related to robots making decisions in combat. As AI technology keeps evolving in the defense world, it’s clear there’s a push towards operations that rely more on machines, which means there’s a growing discussion about setting rules for how this technology is used.

For example, Rockwell Automation, which has an office in Virginia, encourages what it calls “Smart Manufacturing.” By using AI, the system, cybersecurity, and various parts of the manufacturing workflow are strengthened. Rockwell Automation’s FactoryTalk Analytics LogixAI tool leverages advanced predictive technology to identify potential problems early, like engine failures, which can launch preventive actions and maintain the quality of the products. This can mitigate potential delays in material sourcing as well as detect and neutralize threats. IT solutions for efficient manufacturing operations are critical in implementing smart manufacturing and defense product manufacturing strategies.

Engineer manager check and control automation robot arms machine in intelligent industrial factory

Strengthening Virginia’s Defense Sector Through Cybersecurity and Quantum Technology

As part of its GENEDGE Alliance mission and manufacturing business consulting services, the company is taking big steps forward in educating defense manufacturing clients about the latest emerging cybersecurity technology, including the fascinating world of quantum technology. Still in its embryonic stage, the tech harbors the potential to revolutionize secure communications and data encryption.

So far, quantum computing has shown great potential to decrypt sensitive information, a scenario that spells both an opportunity and a challenge for national security. Recognizing the dual-use nature of quantum advancements, GENEDGE clients will continue to explore the potential of quantum sensing and other Industry 4.0 technologies. This tech promises revolutionary improvements in detection capabilities, from submarine detection that could make the oceans “transparent” to alternative positioning and navigation methodologies strong against GPS vulnerabilities.

To explore how your defense manufacturing operations can benefit from cutting-edge technology solutions, request a free assessment from GENEDGE today. Take the first step towards integrating advanced defense technologies into your business.

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