Further confirmation of the US government’s fascination with 3D printing comes this week, in the form of Army Technology’s July/ August issue. The official journal for the latest news and innovations from the US Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, Army Technology has dedicated its latest edition to 3D printing and all its potential military uses.
The whole magazine is available online, and it’s all worth reading. It covers everything from medical applications such as bioprinting skin cells for wounded soldiers to clothing, composites, food and President Obama’s well-documented interest in additive manufacturing.
One key focus is on the economics of 3D printing. With 3D printers, soldiers can receive parts, tools and equipment in the field, without the cost of transport and delivery. James Zunino, researcher at the Armament Research, Engineering and Design Centre explains it like this:
3D printing also allows for integrating components together to add capabilities at reduced total life cycle costs. It is expected that 3D printing will reduce life-cycle costs of certain items and make munitions more affordable in the long run through implementation of design for manufacturability.
The most headline grabbing reports in the magazine, however, are those related to developments in the field of 3D printed weaponry, most notably, warhead components. Due to its ability to create metal pieces in shapes that are either too expensive or impractical to manufacture using traditional machine tools, additive manufacturing offers the fine customisation and detail needed to tailor precise weapons to exact missions and targets.
Warheads could be designed to meet specific mission requirements whether it is to improve safety to meet an Insensitive Munitions requirement, or it could have tailored effects, better control, and be scalable to achieve desired lethality.