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General document | Advanced Materials and Manufacturing – Implications for Defence to 2040

Executive Summary

The Emerging and Disruptive Technology Assessment Symposium (EDTAS) series is a technology foresighting program under the Next Generation Technologies Fund designed to provide key insights and information on emerging and potential technologies over the longer term.

Technology foresighting is critical to understanding the strategic environment we find ourselves in and identifying the opportunities that science and technology may offer in minimising or exploiting disruption. DST is actively partnering with Defence stakeholders, industry, academia and allied defence research agencies on technology foresight studies to identify opportunities and obtain detailed insights on potential game-changing effects of new technologies. In November 2017, DST joined with Noetic Group and the University of Melbourne to hold an EDTAS on Advanced Materials and Manufacturing. Advances in materials and manufacturing will have a profound effect on Defence and national security over the coming decades. Driven by the desire to continually seek lighter, stronger and more durable structures, new metals and alloys will be used in both Defence and non-Defence settings. Cheaper and lower energy production and manufacturing techniques will see increased use of specialised materials such as titanium and carbon fibre in many applications. Other specialised materials such as amorphous metals and superalloys will provide new opportunities with special magnetic properties and hightemperature resistance. The ability to produce metals with specific degradation qualities and deformation characteristics will also enable novel applications in aerospace and biotechnology that were previously considered unfeasible.

Advances in manufacturing techniques will underpin new technologies and the use of novel materials with additive and hybrid manufacturing will make for more efficient, lower waste products, highly customised design and production, and embedded electronics and sensors.

Additive manufacturing will also have important ramifications for the capability acquisition process of the Australian Defence Force (ADF). For example the ADF and Australian Defence industry could use novel manufacturing techniques for collaborative, rapid design and manufacture of next generation weapons, combat vehicles, and other equipment. The ability to make small batch or even one-off products at low cost could revolutionise how the ADF acquires assets, allowing iterative improvements from one purchase unit to the next.This report captures the key insights from the symposium, and identifies strategic opportunities for Defence in the field of advanced materials and manufacturing out to 2040.

The following are identified as key areas of research and development in the 2040 timeframe:

  • Nanomaterials
  • Metamaterials
  • Materials for energy storage and generation
  • Multi-functional materials.

The following are identified as gaps in research, as well as potential opportunities for Defence going forward:

  • Cross disciplinary teams for novel materials
  • Rapid modelling
  • Mass customisation
  • Sustainable manufacturing
  • Smart products
  • The Maker Movement
  • Integrated computational materials engineering.

Additive manufacturing, nano-scale energetics, structurally reactive materials and metamaterials are identified as significant opportunities for Defence with the potential to offer substantial benefits in terms of savings, efficiencies and capability.

Key information


Mark Burnett, Paul Ashton, Andrew Hart, Dmitri Kamenetsky, Nigel McGinty, Dale Quinn, Shannon Ryan, Alex Shekhter and Paul Solomon

Publication number


Publication type

General document

Publish Date

September 2018


Unclassified - public release


Futures; Advanced materials; Advanced manufacturing; Additive manufacturing; Defence implications.