DARPA and Manufacturing

DARPA has a fantastic track record on technological innovations, from the earliest space programs, the internet, personal computers, VLSI, stealth technology, GPS, unmanned systems, to artificial intelligence as embodied by Siri in the iPhone. Although driven from the defense perspective, much of their innovations end up in the commercial world. In 2011 DARPA took on a new challenge to revolutionize design, verification and manufacturing of complex vehicles and other cyber physical systems. The DARPA Adaptive Vehicle Make (AVM) program is a portfolio of programs that “… seeks to revolutionize the design and build process for complex defense systems by compressing the development time lines at least five fold while increasing the nation’s pool of innovation by several factors of 10”. The program seeks to enable the creation of a flexible, programmable, potentially distributed production capability able to accommodate a wide range of systems and system variants with extremely rapid reconfiguration timescales.

The program introduces revolutionary approaches to the design, verification and manufacturing of complex defense systems and vehicles. So we were thrilled when we were invited to participate in this program and apply our technology to the design and manufacturing space. Our role in the project is to build an AVM Workbench that enables integration and automation over a mix of design and manufacturing languages and models that represent systems engineering and manufacturing knowledge. Intentional’s deliverables will be used to enable early manufacturability feedback directly into the design trade space.

“Intentional Software is developing tools to identify assembly steps based on seams in a product structure as well as integrated liaison graphs for use by other tools in assembly assignment activities. Intentional is also developing a VHDL-like manufacturing process language to represent the various product and process representations in play for products, operations, foundry, and execution. The Intentional AVM Workbench work in iFAB is able to connect attributes throughout the design and fabrication representations to ensure consistency throughout. It can also identify disconnects (constraint violations) between the design as assembly processes, such as a component being too heavy for the chosen assembly approach and support changes to ensure development of a satisfactory assembly plan”, said Paul Eremenko, DARPA AVM Program Manager.

Me in front of the USMC Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle

The program will see a lot more visibility later this year and next year when the first of a series of DARPA challenges will be announced. The goal of these challenges will be to crowd source a defense vehicle with the winning design team taking home $1-2M.

I hope we can blog more about this as the project proceeds. Needless to say, DARPA is very sensitive to how we communicate our participation. DARPA did invite us to see some current vehicles that is planned to be the topic of the challenges. Here is me in front of the prototype Marine Corps Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, which after 15+ years of development was canceled last year because it was too expensive to design and manufacture – exactly the problem the DARPA AVM program set out to address.