3D printing in combat zones

As we’ve previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, the DIY Maker Movement has used Atmel-powered 3D printers like MakerBot and RepRap for some time now, but it is quite clear that 3D printing recently entered a new and important stage in a number of spaces including the medical sphere, architectural arena, science lab and even on the battlefield.

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Photo Credit: US Army

Yes, the US Army Research Laboratory (ARL) and Purdue University are currently examining the possibility of deploying 3D printers in combat zones which would be tasked with instantly fixing or replacing damaged equipment (including aircraft and ground vehicles), all while significantly cutting down on logistical costs.

According to Ed Habtour, a research engineer with ARL’s Vehicle Technology Directorate at Aberdeen Proving Ground, scientists have found that combining the general purpose, finite-element analysis software ABAQUS with Python helps improves energy absorption and dissipation, productivity and lower maintenance costs.

“The combination of ABAQUS and Python provides an automated process for auto-generation of the geometries, models, materials assignments and code execution,” Habtour explained. “The soldier can print [3D] structures in the field using additive manufacturing by simply downloading the model generated by the designer/vendor.”

Habtour also noted that new structures created from this process are designed to be adaptive and configurable to the harsh conditions like random and harmonic vibrations, thermal loads, repetitive shocks due to road bumps, crash and acoustic attenuation. Plus, the structures can be configured to prevent crack propagation.

“Sometime in the near future, soldiers would be able to fabricate and repair these segmented structures very easily in the front lines or Forward Operating Bases (FOBs), so instead of moving damaged ground or air vehicles to a main base camp for repair, an in-field repair approach would essentially mean vehicles would be fixed and accessible to warfighters much faster at lower costs,” he addedr. “We want to change the conventional thinking by taking advantage of exciting materials and manipulating the structure based on the principle of segmentation and assembly.”

21 thoughts on “3D printing in combat zones

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